Austin’s long-awaited homelessness strategy officer leaves position after one month

Lori Pampilo-Harris started work as Austin's new homelessness strategy officer Sept. 9.

Lori Pampilo-Harris started work as Austin's new homelessness strategy officer Sept. 9.

Citing “family obligations,” Lori Pampilo Harris, the city’s long-sought-after homelessness strategy officer, will vacate the position after only one month on the job, according to city officials.

Pampilo Harris will instead assume a consultant role that will allow her to address her familial duties, according to an Oct. 9 email sent from Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzalez to Austin Mayor Steve Adler and City Manager Spencer Cronk.

“Lori moved to Austin [from Orlando] to begin her position as quickly as possible, which meant that she relocated to Austin ahead of her family,” Gonzales’s email read. “Lori’s family obligations are such that she will be transitioning to a consultant role rather than a full-time employee role.”

A city spokesperson said they could not provide any specifics regarding Pampilo Harris’s “family obligations.” In a statement released Oct. 10, Pampilo Harris said the decision was tough, and, although she will only be a consultant moving forward, she remains committed to ending homelessness in Austin.

“While it is true that, due to family obligations, I will no longer be serving as a City employee, I will continue to perform many of the same functions in a consulting capacity,” Pampilo Harris said. “This was not a decision I made lightly, and I’ve had previous conversations with my immediate supervisor. I’m deeply appreciative of their understanding and willingness to work with me in a way that allows me to meet my family obligations and continue the work we’ve started.”

Austin had been working on hiring a homeless strategy officer—often referred to as the “homelessness czar”— since 2018, and the city conducted a major nationwide search to find the right candidate. The position was the first City of Austin job to focus exclusively on homelessness, organizing efforts between the various sectors and implementing a coordinated approach to end homelessness.

The hiring process took much longer than expected after initial searches yielded no adequate results. Pampilo Harris was named to the position in August earlier this year and began work Sept. 9.

Pampilo Harris’ hiring inspired excitement among city leaders, many of whom said they had high expectations for the position and saw it as crucial to the work to end homelessness in Austin.

Some council members even said the expectations and pressure placed on the role might be too high. However, in a conversation with Community Impact Newspaper last month, Pampilo Harris said she did not feel the pressure. Instead, she said she had set high expectations for Austin, its leaders, staff and community members.

A city spokesperson said they were unsure if or when the city would begin searching for a replacement for Pampilo Harris.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


MOST RECENT

A sign directs voters inside Ridgetop Elementary School in North Central Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
11.8% of voters in Travis County have voted early since June 29, exceeding 2018 primary numbers

More than 97,000 Travis County residents have voted in person or by mail. The turnout far surpassed the combined early and Election Day totals in the 2018 primary run-off election.

A photo of the potential Tesla property
Travis County updates Tesla incentive package, pushing for $1 billion-plus investment from the company

Poised for a possible July 13 vote, Travis County has released a refined incentives structure proposal with electric carmaker Tesla.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.

The building would be used as a 15,000-square-foot real estate office near Stearns Lane. (Site plan courtesy Townbridge Homes)
New office building could be headed to W. Hwy. 290 in South Austin

The building would be used as a 15,000 square-foot real estate office near Stearns Lane.

Gourdough's filed for bankruptcy June 23. The South Lamar brick-and-mortar location and its food truck both remain open. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
South Lamar donut spot Gourdough's files for bankruptcy

Court documents show that the owners of Gourdough's poured $1.79 million into a San Antonio location that opened in 2019.

The new partnership will provide on-site, same-day testing and results for assisted-living facility staff and their residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
State announces partnership for increased COVID-19 testing for patients, staff at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes

These test sites will help the state work toward the goal of processing up to 100,000 tests in the first month.

The city of Austin has sent three samples of algae from Lady Bird Lake to The University of Texas to test them for toxins. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
University of Texas researchers will test Lady Bird Lake algae for harmful toxins

Last summer, five dogs died in Lady Bird Lake after coming into contact with the toxic blue-green algae.

Former Cedar Park Police Department Chief Sean Mannix is pictured in this 2015 file photo. (Community Impact Newspaper file photo)
Cedar Park police chief moves to Burnet, driver's license offices reopen: Most popular news this week from Central Texas

Read the most popular Central Texas news from the past week on Community Impact Newspaper's website.

A photo of Del Valle ISD's Cardinal stadium
Del Valle ISD approves Tesla incentives, paving way for possible Travis County agreement

The school district's July 9 vote could yield Tesla around $46.4 million in tax abatements if the company chooses Travis County as its next factory site.

Travis County has had 13,864 total confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic as of July 9. (Community Impact staff)
Travis County tops 700 new COVID-19 cases for second straight day July 9

Travis County has had 13,864 total confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Effective July 9, hospitals in more than 100 counties across the state must now postpone elective surgeries unrelated to COVID-19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MAP: Governor expands restrictions on elective surgeries to more than 100 Texas counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the restrictions that initially required only hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties to postpone all non-medically necessary surgeries and procedures that are unrelated to COVID-19.