A long-anticipated internal report on the City of Austin’s spending on homelessness finally dropped this week.
The report, which can be found here, was commissioned by Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly earlier this year. The goal was to determine how much money the city was spending and where.
Astonishingly, even after months of investigation, the city auditor found “there is no complete inventory of agreements and associated spending for the City’s homelessness assistance efforts, and the number of these agreements cannot be fully determined.”
In other words, they don’t know.
Nevertheless, the city has spent at least $179 million across at least 15 city departments and at least 101 separate agreements.
In addition, blogger Lawence Pearson investigated political contributions by a city vendor and found numerous connections to national Democrat candidates.
Pro-public safety PAC “Save Austin Now” released the following statement:
Most stunningly, the audit finds that because homeless initiatives are managed across many departments, no one department tracks or is even aware of all the related agreements and their costs or performance measures.
We now know that $179 million was spent over the past three fiscal years. We also know that the City has issued 101 agreements with local entities to provide services to the homeless. What we do not know are any of the details of the 101 agreements, like the funding for each, or how many new beds were provided with that funding, or how success is measured with each grant recipient. And most importantly, we don’t know the cost of each program and how federal dollars were used on any of these initiatives.
We need to see the dollar amount for each agreement, the performance metrics, and number of people served. This analysis should go back three years for each to track the trends. We would also like to see which agreements have been repeated across the three years and which agreements are new.
Our community has suffered massive negative impacts from this Council’s failed homeless policies. Taxpayers deserve a much better accounting of where our tax dollars are being spent on the homeless initiative and the results of those tax dollars.
We need an independent assessment of how many homeless are in our city currently (not conducted by ECHO, a grant recipient with a conflict of interest), a serious assessment of how the homeless population has grown over the past two years since the homeless ordinance was in effect, the number that became homeless in Austin over that time and how many moved to Austin.
We need to know how many received assistance by each agency and the outcome of the taxpayer spending. We need to know how many EMS, Fire and Police calls were generated by activities of the homeless.
We need to know the cost of hotels purchased by the city and the loss of property tax, sales taxes and HOT taxes due to those purchases.
We need transparency on the costs. The spending needs to be broken down between administrative costs and direct services for each agency and contracts. There needs to be clearly defined performance measures for each department as well as agencies.
Austinites concerned with the results of this audit can contact their council member.