Austin leaders look to Miami for homeless solutions
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
There are nearly twice as many homeless students in the Austin Independent School District as there are homeless people in all of Miami.
However, it took Miami 20 years to reach that point.
Ed McHorse with Austin ECHO, a homeless collation, knows he cannot carbon copy Miami’s methods, but feels there is a way to use the Florida city as an example.
"We are moving down the road toward fulfilling that,” McHorse said. “A big piece of that is going to be figuring out how we are going to fund at the level required to make a difference."
Like the ARCH Austin, Miami has an emergency shelter, but that’s where the similarities end. Miami’s emergency shelter functions as a transition point to permanent supportive housing, reduced rent apartments and programs focused on permanent employment.
"On virtually every aspect of the homelessness situation, we are having difficulty in meeting the demands that are out there," Austin City Council Member Chris Riley said.
Miami’s homeless agencies rely on private funding, as well a dedicated restaurant sales tax. In Miami, where rental occupancy is low, landlords have offered cheap rents for homeless families-- something they’re unlikely to do here.
"Why would someone who is the number-one city for foreclosures in America come to a place where you have a 95 to 97 percent occupancy rate on rental properties?" David Vincent with Miami’s homeless coalition, Chapman Partnership, said.
Right now, Council Member Riley says the average Austin homeless person spends nine months staying at the ARCH. In Miami, it's 47 days.
Riley knows easing Austin’s homelessness bottleneck will require a multi-prong approach.
Projects are underway locally, but only at a fraction of the size of Miami’s efforts. Leaders say that's why they will need help from the private sector to ease a growing problem in Central Texas.
Vincent says his organization has a $25 million endowment used to combat homelessness. In addition, he says many of Chapman Partnership's employees are former homeless clients.