New East Austin apartment community first of its kind in Central Texas for homeless

AUSTIN – There’s a new approach to solving homelessness in Austin.

It has to do with a one-of-a-kind apartment community that has onsite mental health services plus drug and alcohol treatment.

It’s called Housing First Oak Springs.

At a press conference at the future site of the apartment community in East Austin on Oak Springs Monday morning, Joyce, a former homeless Austinite, talked about what would have happened if she didn’t get help.

"I would have been in the streets and I would have died," Joyce said.

In 2011, Joyce became homeless after getting a divorce and a bipolar disorder diagnosis. It was a triple hit. But she got help and temporary housing from Integral Care, the mental health authority for Travis County.

Today, the 66-year-old is doing well and no longer homeless. Her success story, hoping to become others’ who eventually stay at the new Housing First Oak Springs apartment community.

"There will be an on-site clinic here so they can get their medical care, their mental health services and their treatment services and it’ll also be a clinic that serves the surrounding community," said Ellen Richards, the Chief Strategy Officer for Integral Care.

The apartment community will house 50 tenants, 25 of them homeless vets.

According to project organizers, getting the top 50 most vulnerable homeless off the streets will save taxpayers $11.1 million a year.

That breaks down to $222,000 per person in emergency room visits, inpatient hospital stays, nights in jail.

Integral Care also broke down the funding for the $20 million project.

AWARDED FUNDING SOURCES TO DATE – 12/2017

State Funding

$4,442,438

City of Austin-Bond Funds

$3,888,112

Low Income Tax Credit

$7,906,525

Private Funders

$ 3,975,912

TOTAL

$20,212,987

The apartment community sits in Austin City Council Member’s Ora Houston’s district. She knows firsthand the struggles of mental illness as her son battles bipolar disease.

"It’s extraordinarily difficult. I’m amazed when people are able to — with the kinds of support — wrap around services that Integral Care will offer in this space, how people will be able to stabilize," said Houston.

Tackling homelessness by treating the person as well.

Construction on the project is expected to be complete in about 14 months.

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