AUSTIN, TEXAS – Austin Mayor Steve Adler was joined by U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro Friday morning to announce the city has effectively ended homelessness among veterans.
“Two states and 29 communities have now ended veteran homelessness. I’m proud to say that Austin is one of those cities,” Castro said.
The road to ending homelessness among veterans started in October 2014 when then-mayor Lee Leffingwell accepted First Lady Michelle Obama’s nationwide Mayor’s Challenge to end veteran homelessness.
“The City of Austin’s role is to support them and provide seed money,” Leffingwell said during a news conference about the challenge.
Ten months later, newly elected Mayor Steve Adler vowed to finish what Leffingwell started and announced a plan to bring together service providers and property owners and managers to find housing.
Adler said it seemed like a basic concept, but everyone quickly learned of the challenges.
“But then we ran into a wall, and that wall is the fear of the unknown,” said Adler.
Adler explained there was concern among property owners that veterans paying rent with federal vouchers wouldn’t be good tenants. The solution came in the form of a private fund, the Housing Heroes fund.
“We started a risk fund called the Housing Hero[es] fund. A fund created by all of us to be there just in case something went wrong because we knew that nothing would really go wrong,” said Adler.
In two years time, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition said 682 homeless veterans have been housed and Austin has a system in place to make sure if a homeless veteran is identified, they will be housed within 90 days.
“We know that if we can end homelessness for our veterans, then we can end all forms of homelessness,” Castro added.
City leaders are hoping they can use the same system to end homelessness among other groups. Next month, Austin will join a national 100-day challenge to end youth homelessness and it is one of just seven cities to receive a federal grant to help people returning home from prison to find housing.