New city-owned homeless shelter poised for 1.6-acre South Central Austin tract

13

Austin has not expanded its city-owned homeless shelter system since the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, or the ARCH, was built in 2004, but that could change next week as the City Council has tapped a Central South Austin tract for its newest shelter operation.

The 26,594-square-foot property at 1112 W. Ben White Blvd. is expected to be sold to the city for $8.6 million from Alma Tierra Ventures LLC, according to a late addition to City Council’s June 20 agenda. In January, Austin City Council committed to opening a new city-owned homeless shelter in wake of the ARCH slimming down 60 beds to streamline its resources and better connect clients to case management services.

In the January vote, City Council committed to having the shelter up and operating by Sept. 30; however, City Council Member Ann Kitchen said last week it was unlikely the city would make that deadline.

Initially proposed to run as an emergency shelter, the new operation is also expected to focus its resources on case management and connecting people to permanent housing. Interim homelessness strategy officer Veronica Briseño said that process could take at least six months per client. The new shelter will have a maximum of 100 beds, and services will be limited to people staying at the shelter, per a recommendation from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a group the city has consulted throughout their efforts this year.

The Central South Austin tract marks a half-way point along Ben White Boulevard between MoPac and I-35. The latest information from the Travis Central Appraisal District shows the address is home to Learning Programs International, an adult education school, and International Studies Abroad, a study abroad organization.

Austin’s homeless issue has taken center stage in recent years. The unsheltered homeless population has jumped 142% in the last five years, and the total homeless population has grown 5% each of the last two years, according to a point-in-time count by the local Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO. Austin City Council made homelessness its top priority heading into 2018 where it has remained since.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to clarify the city plans to purchase a 26,594-square foot property located on a 1.6-acre lot.

Share this story
13 comments
COMMENT
  1. You really should do a better job of proof reading as 26,594 square feet does not equal 1.6 acres it equals about 1/2 acre, which begs to ask the question ” what other inaccuracies are there in your reporting?”.

      • I understand that, it says “the lot is 26,594 square feet” it says nothing about the building. The headline reads “Shelter poised for 1.6 acre Central South Austin Tract” and again I repeat 1.6 acres does not equate to 26,594 feet. And I might add that 26,594 square feet at $8,600,000 is equal to $323.00 a square foot which would be one the highest square foot prices ever paid for raw land in Austin (that wasn’t a high-rise). The story has some obvious errors in it.

  2. Kevin Tillotson

    I wish this article, like so many others, wouldn’t dance around stating the actual number of homeless in Austin. Percentage changes are one thing, but when the article doesn’t say what it is a change FROM, or what the new count is, it’s meaningless. Especially vexing, when the article meticulously states the number of beds the new (and old) homeless shelters will have. The number of beds will be “up to” 160. And soon there will be no more services to those not living in the shelters.

    A quick search of recent articles online says 700 homeless were counted living in the area of ARCH, and that there are about 3500 applicants for services. An even number like that suggests that there are more potential applicants, but ARCH stopped taking them. Regardless, there is a documented need for AT LEAST TWENTY TIMES as many beds as being provided! Shooting so low feels like an actual LACK of compassion for the homeless.

    It is with irony that I noticed this new shelter is going up just across the tracks from a broad, triangular field where the City sometimes stores road material and equipment. The woods surrounding it are full of homeless encampments already. This will multiply in proximity to the shelter, as applicants wait their turn for two weeks in a bed indoors. Perhaps the City could make this another Tiny Homes village, or at least, an official campground for homeless.

    • I assume there are many more homeless than there are applicants too. ARCH would have to be incredibly efficient to have most, or even half of the homeless documented. 160 beds won’t even hold just the most vulnerable; the children and elderly. We need something more on the scale of the temporary refugee center that was on Metropolis. Or better, a hundred separate shelters each holding 100 beds!

    • Thank you. And City Council trying to keep this under wraps so residents dont know is also telling. They’re not trying to help more homeless, they’re trying to rid their downtown of problems and hide them south. If they were wishing to help they would use the nearly 9 MILLION to help those in South Austin. Not cut beds at the ARCH and provide so few here.

  3. About time the city put a shelter someplace else beside in the center for tourism. Maybe the homeless will start hang out south of downtown instead of hassling tourist. We need those tourist dollars to help the homeless and other issues.

    • @Brad Sloan, apparently you haven’t driven along Ben White or South Congress lately. Or been in the greenbelts. There are far more homeless camped openly there than there are downtown.

  4. So you are just offloading the homeless problem from downtown to South Austin?? 100 beds? That’s not even close to enough to solve this problem. This will create a magnet for camping out, property crime, etc. exactly as it did downtown. In the “Frequently Asked Questions and Background Information” provided by the city it says “This facility will be part of a larger coordinated entry process and will not be a drop‐in center. Individuals not staying at the Center will not be allowed to gather outside.” Sure, directly outside the facility, maybe. So what does that mean? The logical conclusion is that the entire area will become a place for homeless people to gather, create camps, etc. just like downtown. The open substance abuse and property crime are sure to follow. These issues are already out of control in this area as it is (see the overpass at Manchaca and Ben White). This proposed center will not make it better, it will make it considerably worse. Ann Kitchen is not representing her constituents’ best interest, to say the least!

    • I wholeheartedly agree. I’m no expert on this matter, but it seems the sensible thing to do is to locate homeless camps (i.e. tents) in defined/controlled areas away from the Austin neighborhoods. Provide sanitation facilities (garbage collection, bathrooms and showers) as a matter of personal and community hygiene. The camp would also need some food, security and counseling services.

      Surely, there are successful programs that can serve as a model (although believing the data is another problem). I think we need to help but we also need to show restraint. Ignoring the problem will only make matters worse, however, an ill-conceived solution (trademark of most government programs) will likely make the problem worse as well.

  5. So Ann Kitchen should have the new shelter built in her neighborhood. And while they wait, she can have some of the homeless stay at her house. Or at Steve Adler’s. These city council people are such hypocrites.

  6. Email me. My office will be adjacent to the property. I have some concerns along with other tenants of the office complex

Leave A Reply

Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
Back to top