Episode 5: Homelessness in Central Texas

In a recent census, volunteers from the local organization, Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), went out into the city between 2 and 6 am on January 28th, 2017 to get an accurate count of people experiencing homelessness on a given day. They counted 834 people staying outdoors, 832 were in shelters or safe havens and 370 were in transitional housing. Some have mental health issues, some are veterans and some are people, simply caught off guard with life, suddenly finding themselves on the street. Overall, more than 200 include families with young children. All of these people, living in our city, are Austinites. In this episode we talk to some local leaders with organizations working toward real solutions.

Our Guests:

Susan McDowell

Susan McDowell

Executive Director, LifeWorks

Ann Howard

Ann Howard

Executive Director, Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO)

Sharon Lowe

Sharon Lowe

Former Executive Director, Foundation for the Homeless, Inc


Susan McDowell - Bio
MISSION: LifeWorks is a fierce advocate for youth and families seeking their path to self-sufficiency. We are committed to innovative problem solving, shared accountability and a relentless focus on achieving real, sustainable and measurable results for the clients we serve.

Susan McDowell is Executive Director of LifeWorks, a youth and family service organization in Austin, Texas that provides a continuum of support for youth and families facing issues such as homelessness, abuse, poverty, emancipation from foster care, and mental health challenges at a very young age. Susan is active in numerous civic organizations and regional health and human service planning initiatives. She currently serves on the Board for the Children’s Optimal Health Coalition and Membership Council of the Ending Community Homelessness Organization. Susan has been awarded “Austinite (Under 40) of the Year” by the Young Men’s Business League and Young Women’s Alliance and “Central Texas Social Entrepreneur of the Year,” by Ernst and Young. She participated in the 2007 Marshall Memorial Fellowship Program and was named “Best Community Visionary” by the Austin Chronicle in 2008. Susan holds a B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University and the University of Texas-Austin, respectively.

About LifeWorks
LifeWorks is a fearless advocate for youth and families who are seeking their paths to self-sufficiency. LifeWorks formed in in 1998 through the merger of four longstanding community agencies that streamlined resources to provide a more efficient way of serving overlapping client populations.

Lifework serves more than 10,000 youth and their families each year through its four Divisions: The Housing Division provides a continuum of outreach and residential services for homelessness and runaway youth. TheEducation/Workforce Division provides critical educational services such as Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language, GED, as well as workforce training. The Youth Development Division provides social and emotional learning and skill-building to help youth and young adults avoid crisis and develop into strong, healthy citizens. The Counseling Division is Travis County’s largest source of free and sliding fee scale counseling and provides access to psychiatric services to children and families.

Ann Howard - Bio

Mission: To provide dynamic, proactive leadership that engages policy makers and the community to end homelessness

Ann Howard is the first Executive Director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition in Austin, Travis County; she has held the position since October of 2011. After 1 year of Ann’s leadership, the Texas Homeless Network named ECHO as the Outstanding Coalition in 2012.  Since then, ECHO has partnered with CSH to examine feasibility for Pay for Success and plans to advance to the deal structuring stage, acquired 3 HUD HMIS grants and 1 COC Planning Grant; been included in a $3.5 million state grant, and a $3M VA SSVF grant and has increased the ECHO budget from $100,000 to over $1,000,000.  ECHO participates with the CAN Indicator Dashboard Steering Committee, the PSH Finance Leadership Committee, Travis County Criminal Justice Planning Council, the Mayor’s Task Force on the Innovation Zone, the Psychiatric Stakeholders Committee and the Housing Works Board of Directors as an advisory member. Ann was an active leader in the city-wide campaign to pass the recent $65M Affordable Housing Bonds and City resolutions to dedicate proceeds from a downtown Austin Density program to support housing first PSH and to set a new goal to build 400 units of PSH with at least 200 of them being housing first and to increase funding for health and human services.

Ann is an alumnus of the University of Texas, with a JD from the School of Law, and an MPA from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.  Ann has been married to John Howard, her law school classmate for 26 years and together they have been active in Austin public schools, youth sports, scouts, The University of Texas and Baylor University and the Lutheran Church.  These activities assist Ann in her work to build collaboration and partnerships.

300 E Highland Mall Blvd, Austin, TX 78752

(512) 963-7630

Sharon Lowe - Bio

Sharon Lowe:

Experienced Executive Director, nonpracticing attorney, human resources professional and lay pastoral minister with a demonstrated history of working in public higher education, government, corporate and nonprofit organizations. Strong business and resource development professional skilled in Grassroots Organizing, Coalitions, Philanthropy, Community Organizing, and Community Engagement.