New mapping tool released to help social services and homeless identify locations to get help
Austin, Texas - As part of the coordinated public health response to COVID-19, the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center recently established a social services branch, which includes multiple strike teams and task forces that focus on efforts including homelessness, food access and behavioral health, among others.
- Homelessness Task Force- develops short term strategies (food access, personal hygiene) and long-term strategies (additional shelter beds, identification of quarantine facility) to address gaps in the homelessness response system related to COVID-19.
- Food Access Task Force- collaborates with community partners to address food system issues related to the response, in addition to working on a longer-term strategy for addressing the anticipated increase in food access needs throughout the community.
- Behavioral Health Task Force- coordinates with the local mental health authority, other mental health and substance abuse providers to address emerging community needs.
“The ability for everyone to participate in the public health response is in the best interest of our community’s safety as a whole,” said Vella Karman, Interim Homeless Services Officer. “Our neighbors experiencing homelessness must have the information and resources they need to make the safest, smartest choices during the pandemic.”
Additionally, Austin Public Health’s (APH) Homeless Services Division has increased services for people experiencing homelessness to meet basic hygiene needs such as showering, handwashing, and using the restroom.
An interactive online map was recently launched to guide people to the nearest site for services, minimizing travel and potential exposure to the virus. The map is regularly updated to ensure accurate information as additional services become available. A future feature will be food access resources and basic needs services provided by community and faith-based partners.
APH Neighborhood Centers will also begin providing emergency rent and utility assistance on April 6, in addition to their emergency food delivery services. While the individual Neighborhood Centers will remain closed, clients may call 512-972-5780 for assistance.
“We need to show more compassion during these uncertain times,” said Stephanie Hayden, APH Director. “As COVID-19 runs its course in Austin, we need to ensure that there is equitable access to food and basic needs across our community – our Neighborhood Centers are partnering with others to address these needs.”
Last week, the City also announced a new community forum, dubbed the ATX Emergency Food Systems Exchange, to connect food assistance and volunteers with the people who need them.
To view the basic needs access map, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/Homelessness. For more information and updates, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.