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February 5, 2024

Austin/Travis County orgs receive record $12 million from federal grant program to end homelessness

AUSTIN – Nine organizations in Austin and Travis County will receive nearly $12 million to help people end their homelessness as part of an annual nationwide grant cycle administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This total represents an increase of almost $900,000 over the previous fiscal year.

A total of 16 projects will receive financial support through this latest round of HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) grant competition. In total, the agency awarded $3.16 billion to communities across the U.S. The local projects awarded grants will help partners in our local Homelessness Response System:

  • provide permanent places to live, along with case management and individualized supportive services, for people ending their homelessness;
  • connect unhoused people more quickly to our community’s network of providers;
  • expand our Homelessness Response System to integrate trusted grassroots organizations;
  • provide a pathway to stability for people fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence;
  • provide long-term support for youth and young adults with disabilities and other barriers to securing housing; and
  • continue the collaborative work of connecting everyone in our community to a safe, stable place to live and supports to stay housed long-term.

Funded organizations include the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, The SAFE Alliance, Integral Care, Caritas of Austin, the Housing Authority of Travis County, the Salvation Army, LifeWorks, Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center, and ECHO.

This award shows the power of collaboration and collective impact,” said ECHO Executive Director Matt Mollica. “Bringing in additional resources from the federal government to address homelessness in Austin/Travis County is critical to meeting the mission of a future where everyone has access to the housing of their choice. All these partners – and so many more who weren’t funded this round – do incredible work together every day to provide people with pathways to permanent places to live. ECHO stands ready to work alongside all our community partners to expand housing and service resources to every Austinite who needs them.”

Five new projects funded

In coordination with members of Leadership Council, our Homelessness Response System’s (HRS) governing body, ECHO Grants Manager Eri Gregory and HRS Planning Director Maya Beit-Arie administered a comprehensive collaborative application process that saw a record seven new project applications. Four of those seven were awarded grants. A fifth new project is a replacement for another project the same organization, LifeWorks, has received funding for in the past.

Two of the five newly-funded projects will expand our community’s Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) capacity. Integral Care plans to expand its services for single adults through a new single-site PSH project.  Onsite services include behavioral healthcare, case management, and other wrap around supportive services to people with disabling conditions in alignment with PSH best practices to end their chronic homelessness. LifeWorks is launching our community’s first-ever PSH project that will serve youth and young adults. The project will provide the same level of support as other PSH projects in our community, giving young folks ending their homelessness a stable foundation to build a future.

Two new projects are aimed at expanding access to our community’s network of providers through the Coordinated Entry (CE) process, the no-wrong-door approach that, with a single interaction, connects someone living outside to dozens of organizations who can provide aid. The first will fund Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center’s various avenues for people to access Coordinated Assessments (CAs) and housing navigation. Sunrise has long provided services at their south Austin Hub day center location and recently grew to include hotline, mobile outreach and shelter services teams. The second CE-related project will fund maintenance and improvements of SAFE’s confidential alternative database to store information of people who are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence. This database, closed off from the rest of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), is critical to ensuring the safety and security of survivors of abuse. SAFE’s award also includes funding to grow our HRS’ understanding of and capacity to serve people protected by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

The fifth new project expands access to HMIS, our community’s central person-level database providers use to coordinate care. In 2023, ECHO made the decision to eliminate licensing fees organizations were paying to access HMIS – fees that were necessary to support the administration and infrastructure of a robust, reliable database. The decision was intended to grow the number of organizations who could access the database, expanding our HRS to reach more people through trusted grassroots organizations. It’s worked: Since eliminating fees, ECHO’s HMIS Team has onboarded 17 new organizations and 38 new users into our system. A portion of the CoC award for our community will fund the elimination of fees that enabled this rapid expansion of a central tool in our efforts to end homelessness.

What happens next

Organizations awarded through the CoC program will contract directly with HUD to receive funds. As the CoC Lead Agency, ECHO will coordinate with these organizations to assess and help meet any additional infrastructure, training, or capacity needs that arise.

The groups who submitted the three new project applications that were not funded have received (and will continue to receive, if they choose) support from ECHO staff to review their applications and improve their strategy for a more competitive submission in 2024.

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