Austin Community Unites Around 100 Day Challenge

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By Guest Blogger Susan McDowell, Executive Director of Lifeworks in Austin, Texas

At the end of 2016, Austin community organizations successfully completed a collaborative challenge launched on September 7th to house 50 youth experiencing homelessness in 100 days, with at least 50% of these being youth with foster care involvement.  In addition to the direct impact of housing youth, this effort represented a significant step forward in uniting our community around the goal of ending youth homelessness.

 

In July of last year, A Way Home America (AWHA) announced that Austin, Cleveland and Los Angeles were chosen to participate in 100-day challenges to accelerate efforts to end youth homelessness in their communities. Selected through a competitive application process, each community received support from The Rapid Results Institute (RRI) to develop and accomplish their goals.

 

The 100 Day Challenge is part of the national movement to end youth homelessness, represented by A Way Home America. The Rapid Results Institute provided coaching and support to the communities, with the support of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Casey Family Programs, Melville Charitable Trust and Raikes Foundation.

 

The challenge was completed without any additional funding to support housing or services.  It was the result of a diverse range of community stakeholders aligning resources around a common goal.  The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), Austin’s Continuum of Care Organization, brought all the lessons learned from its success with bringing veterans’ homelessness to functional zero last year.  Organizations like LifeWorks, Safe Alliance and AISD brought decades of experience working with youth.  The City of Austin Housing Authority, Caritas, Salvation Army and Austin Integral Care brought both rental assistance and service support.  Restore Strategy brought volunteer support. Local government came to the table, and the Department of Family and Protective Services provided both critical leadership and alignment around planning for youth exiting care. Countless other organizations and volunteers mobilized to provide furniture and moving assistance.

 

Local leadership is celebrating this accomplishment.  Mayor Steve Adler says, “Don’t ever tell me that some challenges are too big for Austin. First Austin reaches functional zero on veteran homelessness. Now we successfully meet the 100 Day Challenge on youth homelessness. I could not be prouder of the people and organizations that stepped up to make this happen here, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish next.”

 

Two weeks ago, Austin learned that it is one of ten cities selected as part of its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.  The community will receive $5.2 million for community planning, systems development and innovative projects.  This opportunity will help Austin partners leverage the momentum of the Challenge and also address the system and capacity barriers we identified through the process of the 100 Day Challenge!