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Background of the Homelessness Advisory Committee of Austin (HACA)

Homelessness is an increasingly visible problem in Austin. As the city continues to grow and prosper some long-time Austinites are being displaced while others who have been living on the edge in other regions arrive seeking opportunities. Many non-profit and public entities have risen to the challenge and are looking for better ways to coordinate resources. One voice, however, has been missing: the voice of people with lived experience of homelessness.

The Homelessness Advisory Committee of Austin (HACA) was created in the fall of 2017 by the City of Austin’s Office of Innovation in coordination with the Department of Public Health and ECHO. Collectively, these entities are the “Organizers” for the committee. HACA includes 13 members who have previously or are currently experiencing homelessness to help with the development of research tools, consult on findings, and test possible solutions.

Activities

Since October, the group has met bimonthly for two hours. In these meetings members shared their stories, created journey maps, discussed communication needs, developed prototypes, and provided input on City resolutions. The group also voted to adopt bylaws that establish term-limits and process for recruiting and adding new members. A closed facebook group was set up for members to discuss issues with each other and pose questions directly to the organizers. In January 2017, the organizers held a second orientation session to recruit new members. They are continuing to work with service providers to recruit an experientially and demographically diverse group of new members.

Below are a summary of the activities that we have conducted with the group since its inception:

  • Session 1: Orientation and creation of HACA Bylaws
  • Session 2: Activity: Storyboarding - Framing the Story
  • Session 3: Activity: Flyer creation
  • Session 4: Activity: Roleplay
  • Session 5: Activity: Insights feedback
  • Session 6: Activity: How Might We ideation
  • Session 7: Activity: Participant biographies for the HACA packet

HACA team providing feedback HACA team providing feedback

A storyboard created by a HACA member about their path of homelessness A storyboard created by a HACA member about their path of homelessness

A flyer created by a HACA member to help individuals new to homelessness A flyer created by a HACA member to help individuals new to homelessness

Future Needs

HACA is a necessary credibility check for policy makers and service providers in the City of Austin. It gives voice and representation to the an underrepresented community in Austin and provides a forum for inclusion. Since the group’s inception, the iTeam has worked closely with staff from the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) and Austin Public Health to incorporate public and private stakeholders into the process and plan for the group’s transition when this phase of the iTeam’s project ends in mid-2018.