Editors note: this article has been updated to include more information about the grand opening ceremony.

State and local officials joined developers in celebrating the grand opening of a new, 171-unit permanent supportive housing complex for those experiencing chronic homelessness on Feb. 7.

The gist

Espero Rutland is a multistory building in Northwest Austin with fully furnished studios and on-site, continuous support services for residents.

The $34 million project was funded by a variety of federal, state, city and philanthropic support.

The nonprofit Caritas of Austin, which will operate the complex, began construction in August 2021 in partnership with the Austin Housing Finance Corporation and developers from The Vecino Group.

Quote of note

“Caritas is doing this because it is hard. Caritas is doing this so our currently unhoused neighbors can one day call their loved ones and tell them, ‘I have a place. I don't have to sleep under the bridge anymore,'” Caritas of Austin CEO Jo Kathryn Quinn said.

The breakdown

Of the 171 units, 101 are considered permanent supportive housing and are reserved for those enrolled into the county's Continuum of Care system, which assesses each individual's level of care, partly based on social and physical health exams.

For these units, $7.5 million in city bonds are going toward housing vouchers to subsidize the building operations—a first for Austin, said Michael Gerber, the president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Austin.

The remaining 70 units are non-Continuum of Care units for people experiencing homelessness or at-risk for homelessness, said Aaron King, Caritas director of marketing and communications, in an email.

There are 25 units reserved for veterans as well as 18 Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant units available for wheelchair users and the hearing/vision impaired.

The details

Espero Rutland will offer on-site support services to help individuals transition out of homelessness and integrate back into the community, according to a news release.

The following services will be offered to residents at the housing complex:
  • Personalized support in housing
  • Education support
  • Employment resources
  • Food resources
  • Connections to mental/physical health services
  • Peer support specialists who have experienced homelessness, substance abuse, PTSD and other shared experiences
As of Feb. 7, 29 of the 171 units were occupied, King said.

The context

The new development is part of the city of Austin's 2021 plan to house 3,000 people in a three-year timeframe, with the goal of giving 1,000 people permanent supportive housing.

“Today is just the beginning. We are going to see a lot more buildings like this open up in the next two years,” Travis County Commissioner Ann Howard said.