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City Manager Announces Creation Of Homeless Strategy Office

The Homeless Strategy Division, currently under Austin Public Health, will transition to a stand-alone office reporting directly to the City Manager’s Office.

The City of Austin’s commitment to making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring was strengthened this week as Interim City Manager Jesús Garza announced the creation of a stand-alone office dedicated to this important effort.

Garza shared the news in a memo to Mayor Kirk Watson and Austin City Council members on Monday.

In June, Garza initiated a homeless strategy special assignment to focus on the broad spectrum of programs, policies, and funding the City utilizes in support of addressing homelessness in the Austin community. In his memo, he shared with Mayor and Council that a significant finding of the assignment is that the City’s current organizational structure does not effectively respond to this critical priority.

“While the Homeless Strategy Division was embedded within one department, the initiatives to address homelessness span multiple departments and require focused coordination,” Garza said. “Consequently, I am establishing a stand-alone Homeless Strategy Office (HSO) to serve as a focal point for addressing homelessness comprehensively, strategically, and compassionately.”

The reorganization will be effective December 4, 2023. David Gray will lead the Office as the Homeless Strategy Officer, promoting him from the Interim role he has held since September. The primary responsibilities of the Homeless Strategy Office will include:

Procuring, managing, and monitoring homelessness-related contracts between the City and third-party vendors.

Overseeing operations at City-run and City-owned homeless shelters.

Collaborating with City agencies and community organizations in efforts to expand the availability of housing across the continuum of need, including emergency shelters, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing.

Overseeing and approving plans for public space management, including outreach, clean-up, and compassionate encampment closures.

Working with the Communications and Public Information Office to help manage communications regarding the City’s approach to assisting individuals with resolving their homelessness.

Working with the Intergovernmental Relations Office to manage relationships between the City and local, state, and federal agencies and officials.

Collaborating with Austin/Travis County’s Homelessness Response System partners to uphold best practices, policies, and procedures for organizations that serve unhoused people in our community.

Engaging with local businesses and philanthropic entities to broaden the funding base for homeless response services.

The Homeless Strategy Office will also help facilitate an upcoming joint independent assessment to review not only the homeless services provided by the City, but also those provided by partners in this endeavor, including Central Health, Integral Care, Travis County, and the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas in Austin.

“As a City, our goal is to set the standard for innovative and strategic approaches to addressing homelessness and strengthening partnerships with the broad base of stakeholders who care about and invest in this issue,” Gray said.

“Creating this stand-alone office and positioning it to marshal resources from many fronts is a strong indicator of the commitment and dedication of city leaders to helping people experiencing homelessness and to provide them with hope and help when they need it most.”

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