Identifying Innovative Funding Mechanisms to Address Unsheltered Homelessness in Austin

January 15, 2022

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FUSE Corps

In spring 2021, city leaders facilitated the first Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness in Austin determined that a financial investment of $515M, from both the private and public sectors, would be required to rehouse 3000 people experiencing homelessness and add 200 staff to culturally-reflective providers. To support this work, Austin will partner with FUSE Corps to develop a sustainable funding and investment plan for addressing unsheltered homelessness in the city.

This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022.

PROJECT CONTEXT

In the City of Austin, homelessness is a persistent reality that has amounted to a humanitarian challenge. Lack of affordable housing and healthcare, trauma and abuse, and racial inequities are all leading causes of homelessness in Austin. An estimated 9,000 residents in the Austin/Travis County area experience homelessness each year, with Black Austinites disproportionately represented in the homeless population. Black residents represent 1 in 3 of the individuals experiencing homelessness, but fewer than 1 in 10 people in the Austin/Travis County population. Older Austinites are also over-represented, and their share of those experiencing homelessness unfortunately continues to grow. In Austin, like in many other cities throughout the country, people experiencing homelessness are over represented in the criminal justice system and lack adequate access to basic healthcare. Individuals experiencing homelessness have also been amongst the most vulnerable populations during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the City has developed several initiatives to keep this population safe, they are only a temporary solution.

Since 2018, ending homelessness has been the top priority of city leaders and ensuring accessible services to those experiencing homelessness are focal points of Imagine Austin, the 30-year vision for the city. In spring 2021, city leaders facilitated the first Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness in Austin – which brought together diverse voices with differing viewpoints from across the community and political spectrum to tackle the crisis of homelessness that Austin faces. The purpose of the summit was to develop an implementation strategy to effectively and significantly reduce unsheltered homelessness in the city. This will include building and scaling Austin’s homelessness response system to become a rehousing system that can offer safe, decent housing to anyone who is experiencing homelessness. In the next three years local leaders are determined to rehouse 3000 people experiencing homelessness and add 200 staff to culturally-reflective providers, fortifying their capacity. To achieve these momentous outcomes, the Summit determined that a financial investment of $515M, from both the private and public sectors, would be required. As of October, Austin has reached 78% of their investment goal – with the city and county committing $268M in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support the strategy. The City of Austin is determined to close this nearly 25% gap, which will require $115M in additional investment.

Austin will partner with FUSE Corps to develop a sustainable funding and investment plan for addressing unsheltered homelessness in the city. The FUSE Executive Fellow will develop a long-term investment framework that will integrate all possible private and public financial resource streams that could be utilized to support crisis services, housing programs, targeted prevention, rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing after the initial investment of funds related to the summit investment plan are spent. This work will ensure funds are effectively and efficiently spent on adding housing capacity and building a better system, supporting Austin in reaching the ambitious goal of becoming one of the first cities of its size to end homelessness.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed Executive Fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the Executive Fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the Executive Fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Executive Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in April 2022, it is proposed that the FUSE Executive Fellow will work to quickly build deep relationships with a range of critical stakeholders, including staff across city departments and elected officials, those involved in the Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness (community partners including the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Justice Coalition, Homes Not Handcuffs, and Notley’s HomeFront Fund); the Housing Authority of Austin and Travis County; and Central Health. The Executive Fellow will gain an understanding of the current resource streams and investment priorities of the city, identify lessons learned from the initial procurement and distribution of resources, and identify opportunities to further tap into existing funding streams and tap into new funds streams to support the array of programs within the Homelessness Response System. The Executive Fellow will conduct extensive research during the first few months, reviewing national best practices and models for funding homelessness initiatives in other cities, and determining the infrastructure needed to bring new funding streams to Austin.

Next, the Executive Fellow will build a long-term framework to sustain the initial investments and maximize the city’s resources for these housing and homelessness initiatives for decades to come. This will include specific recommendations outlining how the city can better leverage existing public and private financing options (e.g., Medicaid). The Executive Fellow will also map all available funding streams, creative financing tools, or new financing models – determining the city’s feasibility with regard to retaining these resources over time (factoring in staff and service provider capacity limitations, shifting priorities, decreases in those experiencing homelessness etc.). The Executive Fellow will detail the requirements, timelines, and expenditure restrictions of each available federal, state, regional and private competitive grant or open funding opportunity.

The Executive Fellow will work to prioritize these potential funding opportunities and begin to tap into the largest pools of resources. The Executive Fellow will work to define step-by-step processes for securing and implementing these financing options, ensuring staff in each applicable department or service providers are well equipped to procure and report on potential investments. One such resource opportunity will be with Medicaid. By April 2023, the Executive Fellow will have developed a long-term sustainability plan for an adequately-resourced local homeless response system, catalyzing and sustaining transformative programs that equitably address unsheltered homelessness in Austin. This will include the following:

  • Conduct a comprehensive review current landscape – Engage with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the city; analyze current models and systems for financing, identifying all current resource streams for funding the system; determine current funding distributions, locating gaps and opportunities; research innovative financing mechanisms and other forms of creative funding and partnerships in other localities that are similar or applicable to Austin
  • Provide recommendations and develop a framework for long-term investments – Model out the expected funding needs for supporting year-to-year deployment of the strategy; identify creative tactics that will help finance the level of effort required to stabilize the strategy using additional ARPA distributions; explore opportunities that can capitalize on future savings and a variety of resource streams; map the requirements, timelines, and expenditure restrictions of all potential resource streams, prioritizing resources based on a set of standard criteria (such as ease of process or amount of potential funding) and plot the funding streams (existing and new) to specific programs
  • Support implementation and long-term sustainability – Prepare briefing documents and deliver presentations to city leadership to illuminate the possibilities of leveraging new forms of financing and the importance of advancing the proposed recommendations; pursue the largest pools of funding and funders, such as Medicaid; build capacity cross-departmentally and within service providers to enable the city to more aggressively pursue each unique funding opportunities

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – Dianna Grey, Homeless Strategy Officer, Austin Public Health Department – Homeless Strategy Division
  • Project Supervisor – Nirav Shah, Business Process Consultant, Senior, Austin Public Health Department – Homeless Strategy Division

QUALIFICATIONS

  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field; experience in housing, homeless services, municipal finance, or healthcare finance preferred
  • Experience working with federal funding streams, a plus
  • Robust experience in executing on research, and distilling information from complex systems to drive others to action
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use organizational management techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities
  • Cross-cultural agility, relating to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Proven success in cultivating partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and fostering collaborative environments
  • Ability to understand data and evidence and use it to support a business case, and make a persuasive argument to support recommendations
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who is an independent worker
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise summaries and recommendations
  • Able to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Flexibility, adaptability, persistence, humility, inclusivity, and sensitivity to cultural differences
  • Supports and understands the strength of diversity, and the need for solutions to support all
FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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