New east Austin apartment community looks to fight homelessness

Courtesy: Integral Care

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A first-of-its-kind permanent support housing community in east Austin hoping to help end homelessness breaks ground Monday.

Integral Care’s Housing First Oak Springs apartment community will feature 50 units, along with an integrated health clinic offering mental and primary health care, which will be open to the community, as well as treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. There will also be a community room with a library, employment services, an outdoor exercise space, computer lab and garden.

The “housing first” approach aims to get those experiencing homelessness into permanent affordable housing quickly, and then provide the supportive services and connections to the community so they avoid becoming homeless again.

“While it by itself will not be the single silver bullet that solves all of our homeless issues, it does it, I think, in the right way,” said State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. “It provides housing, and they can stay in this housing as long as they need to … but what it also does, is it provides support services — mental health services — that I think are going to be very important.”

Sen. Watson, along with Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council Member Ora Houston, will speak at the groundbreaking at the apartment community at 3000 Oak Springs Dr., near Airport Boulevard.

One person who knows the importance of housing first is Joyce. In 2011, the mother of two, who once lived in Circle C, found her life turned upside down. “I realized when my husband didn’t want to see me anymore, and that we declared bankruptcy — I didn’t have a house, and then I have bipolar, then it was like, I thought it was a fate worse than death.”

Joyce was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder, and spent five months in a hospital. When she got out, Integral Care helped her get into a shelter, and provided resources to help her survive.

Those included counseling, managing her mental illness, learning how to get around on public transit and use SNAP benefits for food. Joyce said being able to move straight into housing and not live on the streets saved her. “I didn’t start out homeless, but from being well off, to homeless, and then to a place again — it meant a lot.”

The Housing First Oak Springs Complex is being funded by federal, state and city funding, along with help from Veterans Affairs, health insurance reimbursements and private funds. It’s expected to be open September 2019.

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