New Frontiers

Innovative East Austin apartments offer permanent housing for chronically homeless

Innovative East Austin complex offers permanent housing for homeless

Housing First Oak Springs Integral Care
Housing First Oak Spring will open in spring 2019. Courtesy photo

A groundbreaking new facility built to combat homelessness while providing support for mental health and addiction issues is coming to East Austin. Integral Care's Housing First Oak Springs, a new four-story apartment complex, will provide 50 fully furnished units to Austinites dealing with housing insecurity.

Units in the new complex, which broke ground on January 22, will come complete with a kitchenette, bedroom, and living area. Amenities include green spaces, vertical gardens, onsite laundry and computer facilities, outdoor exercise space, and a shared community room. Located at 3000 Oak Springs Dr., the prime spot off Airport Boulevard also provides residents easy access to public transportation. 

While the amenities are plush, it's the community of support that makes Housing First Oak Springs such a unique model for combating homelessness. "Once housed, [residents] are offered rehabilitation services and recovery supports to help them regain their health and stability," Housing First Oak Springs says on its website. "With a safe place to live and appropriate support services, the vicious cycle of shelter, jail, and emergency room ends and recovery begins."

The model is one of permanence and whole-person care, providing residents not only with a place to live, but also with access to mental health and employment services; healthcare teams comprised of doctors, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and medical assistants; and an onsite health clinic to provide both mental, physical, and substance abuse services. (The clinic will also be available to the community.) 

The "housing first" model comes with a proven track of success. Since 2013, Integral Care has pulled Austinites off the streets without precondition and into permanent housing around the city. According to the company, this has led to an 85 percent success rate, meaning the majority of people stay in permanent housing. 

Funding for the $18.2 million complex is funded through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, City of Austin affordable housing bond funds, low-income housing tax credits, and private philanthropy. Data from cities like Los Angeles and New York, which have already implemented projects using the housing first model, has shown a savings of approximately $20,000 per year, per individual. Most of this savings comes from a decrease in interactions with law enforcement and EMS, and fewer hospital stays.

"Based on the results achieved through our current Housing First efforts, we estimate that housing 50 more of the most vulnerable people in our community will result in savings of at least $1 million per year," says Housing First Oak Springs in a release

With construction beginning the week of January 22, Housing First Oak Springs is slated to welcome new residents by spring 2019.