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.
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