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Counting Homeless In Austin
Date night downtown often comes with an extra expense.
"It just gets very annoying and old," said Bob Mattana, a tourist from Michigan.
Tourists like the Mattana's say getting repeatedly approached for money gets old, fast.
"It would be nice to avoid," said Bob.
"It's sad. It really is," said his wife Durinda. "There are a lot of issues that go into this, as far as mental health and poverty."
Police have one approach to dealing with the panhandling/homeless population downtown. This week, APD gave us an all-access look at their increased operations targeting the most aggressive panhandlers.
But ECHO, or the ending community homelessness coalition, has a different approach to the problem.
"The homeless population is Austin is needy and complicated, just like the rest of us," said ECHO executive director Ann Howard.
Teams of volunteers spent Friday night locating and counting the people panhandling and sleeping on the street.
"How long have you been homeless?" a volunteer asked one man. "About 12 years," he answered.
The effort is to see how large the problem is here in Austin and then apply for federal funding to help address the city's homeless population.
"As they are, living on the street, is very expensive to the taxpayer," said Howard about the increased medical and jail costs associated with homelessness.
Howard would like to see more permanent supportive housing in Austin, which provides rent-subsidies and other services to help keep people in homes.
Friday's count could help secure $5.7 million in federal HUD funding for programs to address the city's growing homeless problem.
Last year, volunteers counted 2,244 homeless people; half were sleeping in shelters and half were sleeping on the streets.