Austin City Council approves funding to triple capacity.
Dozens more Austinites who are experiencing homelessness will be given the opportunity of paid work thanks to the extension and expansion of a City of Austin program that began last year.
Since its launch 12 months ago the Workforce First program – run by The Other Ones Foundation and fiscally sponsored by local non-profit Family Eldercare – has already paid 150 individuals $15 an hour to do a number of jobs, including removing trash and cleaning up graffiti.
Participants, who are given transportation to and from worksites, lunch, and counseling services, have collectively removed 50 tons of trash from green spaces – including homeless camps – in South Austin.
Workforce First’s purpose is to offer people experiencing homelessness extremely low barrier employment opportunities as an alternative to panhandling as well as to pave pathways to stable employment and housing.
The program also provides mobile outreach, job training, connection to banking and saving services, and help accessing social services.
In the first year of the project 22 individuals have moved into stable housing. Others have been connected to other programs and work opportunities that have helped increase their income and housing stability.
Today Austin City Council approved $720,000 of funding to extend the program and triple capacity by increasing the number of work crews from one to three. The project will also expand its reach from South Austin to other parts of the city.
"I am thrilled the Council has invested in expanding this program to help even more individuals not only meet their basic needs but receive support to get back on their feet for the longer term," said Lori Pampilo Harris, Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer. "Programs like Workforce First are a key component of ensuring smoother transitions to permanent housing and employment for individuals experiencing homelessness. Providing someone the dignity to work is a powerful way to allow them to be a part of the solution to ending their housing crisis."
"This program is playing a critical role in our city’s coordinated homelessness response system, not just by getting people off of street corners and onto job sites, but by instilling in them a sense of hope, dignity, and self-worth that’s often lost in the chaos and isolation of the streets," said Chris Baker, Executive Director of The Other Ones Foundation. "This is not only about people earning a dignified income – it’s about being a force for positive change in the lives of our homeless neighbors. By offering the opportunity to be of service to their community, we see them becoming engaged and proud members of that community."
Henry 'Hank' James, a former Workforce First participant, said: "Sometimes we just need an opportunity to be a part of something… It’s changed my life. And I’m hoping that I can be an example to someone else."
The temporary employment program is a collaboration between Austin Public Health, Parks and Recreation, Watershed Protection, Family Eldercare and The Other Ones Foundation.
Family Eldercare serves as the administrative and fiscal agent, subcontracting with The Other Ones Foundation to provide outreach, daily paid employment opportunities and supportive services to individuals experiencing homelessness. This collaboration has also created a pipeline for older adults in need of housing stability assistance to access Family Eldercare’s Rapid Re-Housing for Older Adults Program, which is funded separately through Austin Public Health.
"The single most important thing this partnership has done is to create a model for coordinated case management between agencies that gets people in jobs and housed efficiently with lasting outcomes," said Shontell Gauthier, Family Eldercare’s Director of Money Management, coaching The Other Ones Foundation.
"This program has given so many people hope," said Stephanie Hayden, Director of Austin Public Health. "We are really excited about the expansion and the opportunity to help more people."
To find out more information on the City’s homeless assistance resources, visit: www.austintexas.gov/department/homeless-assistance.
To learn more about The Other Ones Foundation, whose mission is to transition Austin’s homeless neighbors into an engaged community, through shelter, support, nourishment and love, visit: www.toofound.org.
For information on Family Eldercare, experts on the journey of aging and providing services tailored to the individual to promote independence and stability in Central Texas since 1982, visit www.familyeldercare.org.