New Program Provides Housing and Saves Money

Caritas of Austin ACT Team

In our mission to end homelessness in our community, Caritas of Austin uses proven methods while still having a commitment to innovation. Our latest example is Caritas’ new Assertive Community Treatment program – called “ImpACT,” made possible through a pay-for-success funding model.

So, what does that all mean? Pay-for-success is an innovative funding model where a private investor provides upfront money to fund a program focused on addressing a community problem to save community resources. If the program is successful in saving resources, in this case, public entities will pay back the investor.

“The City wins, the taxpayer wins, and the people who are being served win. We are improving quality of life for the people we serve, but it’s also about cost savings to the community,” said Jo Kathryn Quinn, Executive Director.

The issue Caritas of Austin is working to solve with its ImpACT program is ending homelessness for our community’s highest users of city resources such as emergency room visits and jail stays. It is estimated that the most frequent users of public resources cost over $200,000 per person per year. The ImpACT team’s goal is to drastically reduce these costs by ensuring people have a stable home and the comprehensive support needed to rebuild wellbeing.

“What makes an ACT team different than traditional housing programs is that, rather than referring clients out to community resources, our team is providing everything. We have substance abuse specialists, a nurse, and specialists who have lived experience with incarceration and homelessness,” says Caren Echols, ImpACT Program Manager.

Caritas’ five-person team is a modified version of the full ACT model that’s been successfully implemented for over 20 years. Optimally, the team would be 10+ staff and include a doctor and other specialized positions. Eventually, the program will scale to serve 200 people as resources grow and the program is refined.

The ImpACT program is a pilot focused on housing the 24 top users of public resources, in collaboration with ECHO. Since the ImpACT program officially launched this spring, the Caritas team has housed four people. Their team has to be incredibly responsive, ready to set up a new apartment for move in with a few hours’ notice. And they do daily home visits with each client.

While the new ImpACT program is exciting, Echols wants people to know what complex, collaborative work it will be. “The people we are serving have spent significant time in systems and being failed by systems. That includes the foster care system and psychiatric hospitals. They have collectively been failed by so many systems, so everyone has a part to play in rebuilding their lives.”

Echols said they have faced significant challenges already in housing their first program participants. Even though individuals are grateful to have moved into an apartment, they often retreat back to the places they frequented while experiencing homelessness – their comfort zone where they were more comfortable surviving. Others feel more comfortable in their new home but have significant learning to do about the rules of living in an apartment and how to meet basic needs in a new way.

“On one hand, we want people to celebrate that someone is stably housed. It’s a warm, fuzzy moment, but that’s when the real work begins,” said Echols.

We plan to keep you updated on the ImpACT program in coming months, as our goal is to house all 24 participants by October. Your support can help us continue scaling this program and welcoming even more people to a stable home. You can also donate Welcome Home baskets and apartment items. To learn more, contact Catherine Hood-Foster at