A Forum on Homelessness

Photo by Brian Birzer

Photo by Brian Birzer

On August 29, the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the LBJ Foundation hosted a public forum featuring LifeWorks Chief Executive Officer Susan McDowell. The dynamic panel included Mayor Steve Adler, Police Chief Brian Manley, ECHO Executive Director Matthew Mollica, Homes Not Handcuffs Community Advocate Chris Harris, LBJ School of Public Affairs Clinical Professor Sherri Greenberg, and Downtown Austin Alliance VP of Investor Relations Bill Brice. The forum offered a platform for the community to discuss recent changes to Austin’s public ordinances and the city’s plan to move forward with solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness. 

Steven Pedigo, event moderator and the Director of the LBJ School of Public Affairs Urban Lab, led the discussion that encompassed a broad range of topics around homelessness. Mayor Adler emphasized that the starting point to help individuals experiencing homelessness was to facilitate housing as soon as possible, therefore increasing a person’s access to health services and employment opportunities. 

Susan explained that LifeWorks takes a coordinated data-driven, multi-agency, and multi-partnership approach to ending youth homelessness. We know that 76 percent of youth experiencing homelessness (ages 24 and below) have experienced either foster care, juvenile justice, or both. Therefore, when looking at the driving causes of youth homelessness, she said that it’s important to take a close look at our systems involvement and address those fundamental issues. 

Photo by Brian Birzer

Photo by Brian Birzer

Photo by Brian Birzer

Photo by Brian Birzer

In acknowledgement of these issues, LifeWorks provides 21 programs designed to bolster self-sufficiency under the categories of Housing, Counseling, and Education/Workforce. LifeWorks has one of the most comprehensive continuums of housing and support options for vulnerable youth in the country, including Street Outreach, Emergency Shelter, Transitional Living, Young Parents Program, Rapid Re-Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing.  As the topic of homelessness continues to be top-of-mind for Austin residents, LifeWorks is an example of the kind of comprehensive support that results in sustainable self-sufficiency.  

To watch the entire forum streaming click below. To learn more about LifeWorks programming visit lifeworksaustin.org/housing.