A dedicated team, known as HOST, has helped hundreds of people experiencing homelessness.
A dedicated team of paramedics, police officers, mental health specialists, and case managers – known as HOST – has helped about 120 people experiencing homelessness move out of encampments and into shelters in the past few months.
The Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) which is a collaborative between the Austin Police Department, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services, Integral Care (IC) and the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC), has been instrumental in the success of Austin City Council’s Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) initiative. HEAL is designed to reduce the number of unsheltered individuals by targeting specific encampment sites, and providing outreach, relocation to shelter, and rehousing.
Since April 2021, three of the four HEAL priority encampments have closed and about 120 individuals moved to bridge shelter at the City-owned Southbridge and Northbridge facilities. After arriving at the two City shelters, individuals are connected to a case manager to receive the support they need to apply for, secure and stabilize in housing.
HOST services include conducting Coordinated Assessments for potential housing placement, providing medication and medical treatment, mental health and substance abuse services, employment and legal assistance, and connecting people to transportation.
The HEAL operation, which is led by the City’s Homeless Strategy Division, has relied heavily on the HOST teams’ expertise and ability to build trust with people living unsheltered and to connect individuals to temporary housing.
“We are doing all that we can to support efforts like HEAL that take a comprehensive approach to addressing a critical, community-wide need,” said Assistant Chief Andy Hofmeister, who leads HOST through his role with the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services. “It is a community-wide challenge right now, as crisis shelter capacity is full.”
The HEAL Initiative is also supported by Austin Resource Recovery, Parks and Recreation, and others. Community partners include The Other Ones Foundation, Capital Metro, Family Eldercare, and Integral Care.
Earlier this year, Integral Care, Travis County’s Local Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority, added three new positions to support the City’s HEAL initiative.
HOST Helps Almost 800 People Downtown
Beyond supporting the HEAL initiative, HOST continues to play a key role in the City’s homelessness response in the downtown area. In this fiscal year, the HOST team has served a total of 790 people and provided support more than 2,200 times to individuals experiencing homelessness in the greater downtown and UT campus area.
HOST covers downtown and West Campus, and coordinates with Community Health Paramedics and the Programs for Assistance in the Transition from Homelessness (PATH) outreach team, which serve individuals in the broader Austin-Travis County area.
HOST works to establish trust and build rapport with individuals experiencing homelessness before crises occur or situations escalate. By intervening early, the team can help individuals avoid costly emergency services such as hospitals and jail, instead working toward longer term solutions with the ultimate goal of finding permanent housing.
This year, the team has:
Connected 232 people to medical treatment and helped them avoid a trip to the emergency room
Worked with 27 people to help them avoid admission to a psychiatric hospital
Intervened in crisis situations to help 62 people avoid arrest and being transported to jail
HOST’s work brings significant value to the City’s homelessness response. The average cost of a hospital or psychiatric ER visit is around $1,400. When people are processed into jail, their status in the justice system may limit their options for future employment and housing.
To send a referral to HOST, please call 512-804-3720 or email at email@example.com.