Geographic dispersion in homeless services in Austin, Texas
This professional report addresses the challenges around finding and maintaining housing partnerships that are affordable, safe, and geographically dispersed for clients in homeless service programs. There is a wide diversity of people exiting homelessness, all with their own unique challenges, which is why it is so important that there are a range of housing options throughout the city available for clients. This report begins by examining the history of racial segregation that has makes it difficult to locate housing in geographically dispersed parts of the city for people exiting homelessness. Specifically, they lack access to neighborhoods beyond those where vouchers holders have historically been concentrated. For voucher holders, landlords and property managers act as gatekeepers and shape both individual access to housing and community-wide patterns. Homeless services in the city of Austin are set up to assist clients in accessing housing around the city and most programs have a staff member or team dedicated to locating housing options for clients and to help clients with the application process. Despite all of the support these programs offer both by aiding in the housing search and by providing financial assistance for move in costs and several months of rent, it is still difficult to locate options in many neighborhoods offering access to services important to clients. This report outlines some of the reasons for this challenge and then identifies some of the tools and solutions that have been deployed locally to address this problem. Finally, the report identifies creative solutions that have been used in other cities to create more affordable housing opportunities in geographically dispersed locations.