UT parents petition for expansion of APD Homeless Outreach Team

A man who is homeless near the UT campus (KXAN Photo)
A man who is homeless near the UT campus (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group of University of Texas parents have started a petition to expand a trial homeless outreach program that was started by Austin Police with partnering agencies.

The goal of the outreach team is to help get Austinites off the streets and into housing.

Parents have expressed concerns in the past about a growing homeless population in the West Campus area. Now parents say they have seen the success rates that the homeless outreach program has and want to help police and other agencies dedicate more time to the program.

“There is a large homeless population, but within that population is a large criminal transient population and really we don’t know the difference of what the population is the makeup is,” Joell McNew, a UT parent and VP of SafeHorns says. She, like other parents, expressed concerns of a growing homeless population near the UT campus and how that would impact students.

“[The homeless outreach team is] able to engage so they’re able to determine the homeless people that need services as well as arresting people who shouldn’t be there,” McNew says.

McNew along with groups partnering with APD on the homeless outreach team say homelessness should be approached in a constructive way.

“The purpose of this team is instead of looking at homelessness from a criminal conduct point of view, it’s to understand why people are living on the streets and what do they need to help them get back on their feet,” Ellen Richards, Chief Strategy Officer of the Austin/Travis County Integral Care Center says.

The outreach program runs through October, since their start in early summer, they have made contact with more than 200 homeless people to help get them a variety of services including housing, mental health and alcohol/drug abuse services.

Parents with SafeHorns plan on delivering the petition to the Austin City Council at their August 18 meeting.

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