New “One-Stop Shop” for Trauma Recovery Is the First in Texas
It opens Nov. 1
In 2021, City Council put $1 million toward funding a trauma recovery center where survivors of violent crime can receive clinical case management, psychotherapy, and legal advocacy. Earlier this year, Travis County matched that, and in July, Council authorized a two-year pilot contract with the African American Youth Harvest Foundation, a nonprofit, which will operate a "one-stop shop" for those affected by violence. It's the first in Texas but follows a national model that many other cities have adopted.
Opening a TRC was one of the main priorities of the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force that grew out of the 2020 reckoning around the criminal justice system, aided by the city's contracted study of Austin's violent crime statistics for the newly established Office of Violence Prevention. AAYHF won the bid to be the operator largely because their building also houses around 30 other nonprofits, solving a pervasive problem in social services: "What makes us unique is not only will the referral be made to us, but we can offer a number of other services to those same clients without them leaving the building," explains Michael Lofton, executive director at AAYHF. "Once they have counseling, they may need food, they may need clothes, they may need a bus pass, or they may need insurance." AAYHF and its partners can also offer legal assistance, help finding housing, and job training for those recently released from prison and attempting to reenter the workforce.
"We're also working with the Juvenile Justice, Black Men's Health Clinic, and district courts Downtown – just about any and all first responders," explains AAYHF Technical Director Calvin Kelly. "We currently get a lot of referrals." The program is set up for 120 people each year of the pilot, so 240 total – but Lofton stresses that no one will be turned away. "One of the major components of the national model is this concept of assertive case management. We are not only providing interventions, but we are in many ways providing prevention."
Eligibility for the center is broad: If you've been affected by human trafficking, domestic violence, violent interactions with law enforcement, or even a car crash, you're welcome. "We want to make sure that individuals recognize that trauma will impact their physical, emotional, psychological spaces," says Lofton, "and that there's a space here to provide that level of support they will be looking for, and very much need." Each client will be offered 16 to 32 counseling sessions with a dedicated case worker, depending on their needs.
Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, who chairs the Public Health Committee that will receive updates on the center's progress, says this model is a step in the right direction compared to current practices, where the Austin Police Department's Victim Services counselors show up on-site, but a week after the crime. "There's no response, there's no coordination," says Fuentes. "I think that is a perfect example of how our systems are flawed, and why we really have to think through systems-level approaches."
Fuentes hopes the center can expand and scale to serve more Austinites in the future with the help of state or federal funding: "By establishing it with our governmental partners, we are opening up the pathway for sustainability for years to come," she says. The efficacy of the center will be measured by many metrics, including whether there is a repeat violent incident or the center secures the person housing, services, or jobs: "But probably the most significant thing is that you can't quantify the impact this is going to have on someone who's just gone through a horrific ordeal."