Number of Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) encounters with those persons experiencing homelessness resulting in potential diversions or system costs

Status

This measure reflects the work performed by the City of Austin Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST).  This multi-disciplinary team is made up of staff from Austin – Travis County Emergency Medical Services Department (ATCEMS), the Austin Police Department (APD), Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC), and the Local Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority, Integral Care.  The team is comprised of community health paramedics, police officers, mental health professionals, outreach workers and peer support specialists. The team proactively engages with persons experiencing homelessness out in the community and works to navigate them to services addressing critical needs contributing to their homelessness. These needs include medical care, mental health care, case management and access to resources that can provide critical information and tools to obtain permanent housing.
HOST continues to increase the number of encounters with individuals experiencing homelessness with a goal of connecting them to available services and diverting them from hospital emergency rooms, jail incarceration, or psychiatric hospitalization services into a more appropriate level of services. It is projected that at some point in the future, the number of HOST contacts will plateau and decline over time as local efforts are increased to reduce unsheltered homelessness.

Trending

The grey line in the chart shown left is the goal for HOST unduplicated encounters. The blue line reflects actual unduplicated encounters performed in Austin. HOST has served an increased number of clients since 2017, as the total number of individuals experiencing homeless also continues to grow. This population growth brings associated increases in costs for the healthcare system and criminal justice system. This growth in associated increased costs has been somewhat mitigated by the City of Austin’s investment in the HOST program. 
The projected target population is expected to grow annually as demonstrated by data collected over the past 3 years.  Diversions from emergency rooms, jail, and the psychiatric hospitals also would continue to increase in proportion to encounters thus increasing the total cost avoidance associated with these interventions. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, January 2020 – September 2020, the total unduplicated count of persons experiencing homelessness decreased substantially. With the passage of the City of Austin Proposition B and State of Texas Legislation, both banning camping in public areas, it is expected to have an impact on these efforts as persons experiencing homelessness find alternative locations to camp.
The latest data appears to have rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers.  It is unclear if these increased numbers were due to the availability of vaccines or increased numbers of contacts or both.
Note: to see the underlying data for this chart, please select the "View Source Data" link to the left.

Additional Measure Insights

The estimated cost for a hospital emergency room visit ranges from $500 - $3000.  The estimated cost of pre-trial jail incarceration per day is $60. The average estimated costs of psychiatric hospitalization is $873 per day.  This range varies per condition and ranges from $726 - $1036. From 2018 through June 2021, 848 total diversions were performed.  As of June 2021, the City of Austin’s investments in in the HOST Program has reduced costs related to 520 diversions from emergency rooms for a potential savings in the range of $260,000 to $1,560,000, 195 jail diversions for a savings of $1,700 and 133 psychiatric hospital diversions with an estimated cost savings of $116,109.

Measure Details and Definition

1) Definition:  Number of unique persons served by the Homeless Outreach Street Team. For calendar year 2020, HOST made 684 unduplicated encounters. Within this population, there were 202 emergency room diversions, 33 jail diversions, and 26 psychiatric hospital single day diversions. 
2) Calculation method: The number of diversions are a subset of the total number of interventions. The number of unduplicated encounters are a subset of the total number of encounters.
3) Data Collection Process: HOST captures the total number of encounters with persons experiencing homelessness and the number of interventions completed.  
4) Measure Target Calculation:  The projected target population is expected to grow annually as demonstrated by data collected over the past 3 years.  Targets are calculated annually based upon funding availability and staff configurations.
5) Frequency Measure is Reported: Quarterly (Fiscal Year)
Date page was last updated: July 2021