About a dozen Austin organizations and companies, including Amazon Web Services and Cielo Property Group, pledged their support Tuesday to end homelessness in the city.
Cielo, a real estate development and investment company, committed $1 million to the effort during a community summit at 3Ten at ACL Live that brought together more than 100 advocates across Austin.
Mayor Steve Adler urged other companies to step up and build on the momentum to help the city reach its goal.
“What you feel now is one of those rare moonshot moments,” Adler said. “Everything is aligned right now (from political will to the community’s sentiment to address homelessness). If we don’t do this now, then we will be missing an opportunity that comes to this city only once in decades.”
In April, the City Council approved an action plan to end homelessness. The plan calls for $30 million a year to move toward a systematic community approach that can “address immediate needs, quickly connect people to housing and provide services to ensure long-term stability,” according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. All funding options are being explored.
Other companies and organizations that pledged support during the summit included JP Morgan Chase, the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Salvation Army, Moody Foundation, St. David’s Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation. Many of these groups have committed funds to a permanent supportive housing project for Travis County’s homeless population.
“Think of Legos,” said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. “Each has a function, and when we put it together we create something bigger.” Simply having a positive intent, he said, isn’t enough: “Our practical response is what will define the city.”
This year, an annual census found a 5 percent rise in homelessness in Austin and Travis County compared with 2017. These numbers make the action plan important, according to Darilynn Cardona-Beiler of Integral Care, “because the plan provides a road map.”
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Austin a $5.2 million grant to tackle youth homelessness. Now Austin has committed to making youth homelessness “rare, brief and nonrecurring by 2020,” said Susan McDowell, executive director of Lifeworks. Including the input from the Austin Youth Collective to End Homelessness, she said, has been key to moving forward with a plan.
For Alex Zapata, 26, including the implementation of a community mentorship program in the action plan is vital. Zapata, who attended the summit, experienced homelessness for two or three years before receiving resources from Lifeworks. Now, he’s part of the collective and hoping to make a difference in the lives of other youths.