The move kicks off the second phase of the Austin's Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link, or HEAL. HEAL is a city program that works to close high-risk homeless encampments by offering to relocate occupants to shelters and connecting them with other resources, Austin Media Manager Andy Tate said.
"Today, we were able to help address critical health, safety and environmental concerns, providing people with access to dignified shelter and housing services,” Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said. “HEAL is an important strategy for responding to some of the most pressing needs, and we look forward to its expansion.”
The South Austin encampment was located in the Slaughter Creek flood plain, which city representatives said was at an “extremely high-risk location for floods and fires.”
Approximately 150 people were relocated during the first phase of HEAL, which took place from June to August, Tate said.
Phase 2 aims to relocate 200 by the end of the fiscal year, in September 2022. The encampments that will be targeted have not been released but will be based on learnings from Phase 1 implementation along with the risks posed to individuals living there, according to a city representative.
HEAL is one tool the city uses to address homelessness, Tate said. On average, 1,700 people experiencing homelessness are housed through programs from the city of Austin, nonprofit organizations and other agencies.
“Unfortunately, the city is not able to address every encampment in Austin with the same resources that are dedicated through HEAL,” Grey said. “But HEAL allows us to more effectively target resources to locations presenting the most serious risks to health and safety."