Travis County commissioners approve $100,000 loan to Sobering Center of Austin

The Sobering Center of Austin is located in downtown at 1213 Sabine St.

The Sobering Center of Austin is located in downtown at 1213 Sabine St.

Travis County commissioners voted unanimously July 9 to approve a $100,000 loan to the Sobering Center of Austin to cover delayed payments owed to the center by the state.

The center, which opened downtown last August, provides an alternative to the emergency room and jail for individuals who are publicly intoxicated and need to sober up. Its staff also helps patients access resources for treatment and recovery.

Last year, the Sobering Center board voted to accept federal grant funding for opioid response administered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, chairperson Nancy Hohengarten told commissioners.

Although board members were concerned about whether the center could absorb the responsibilities of the grant so soon after opening, they decided to accept the funds because otherwise the area would not have received them at all, Hohengarten said.

Since then, the HHSC has delayed paying the funds to the center because of an issue with its payment system, leading to an estimated $100,000 deficit in the center’s fiscal year 2018-19 budget.

“We are asking for this loan to tide us over,” Hohengarten said, adding without it the center will have to close for particular days of the week to account for the deficit.

In addition to the cost savings the center provides by diverting individuals who are publicly intoxicated from the county jail, it also benefits the community, Hohengarten said.

“It’s a public health concern when people are this intoxicated and considering driving their cars home, walking home,” she said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty expressed concern about the budget deficit while acknowledging the state’s role in this particular situation.

“The money is not a big deal to me. What’s the big deal to me is where this organization is going,” Daugherty said. “If this is an indication of what is going on here, then I’m going to jump off this ship.”

Hohengarten said the center is fulfilling its mission to divert people from the county jail as well as from area emergency rooms.

“I think this time next year, you’ll be sold on keeping the Sobering Center alive and well,” she told Daugherty.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said the first couple years for any nonprofit is “a rocky time” but affirmed the county’s commitment to the center.

“This is what county governance is about—having the financial flexibility to manage the unexpected, and we have a little of the unexpected here,” she said.
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


Travis County expects about 12% of registered voters to cast a mail-in ballot in the Nov. 3 election. The county has set up drive-thru locations where voters can hand-deliver their mail-in ballots to county staff. The image shows the traffic flow at the 700 Lavaca Street parking garage. Additional drive-thru locations will be open at 1010 Lavaca St. and 5501 Airport Blvd. (Design by Miranda Baker)
Expecting 100,000 mail-in ballots, Travis County expands voting options

The county clerk has set up drive-thru options to deliver mail-in ballots, expanded early voting hours and identified new in--person polling locations.

Crimson Creek Smokehouse specializes in pork barbecue including pork belly burnt ends. (Courtesy Crimson Creek Smokehouse)
10,000 Pots on the move, a new barbecue joint and more Southwest Austin business news

Check out the latest business news from Southwest Austin and Dripping Springs.

Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke at a board meeting Sept. 28 about the district's reopening plan as well as enrollment declines. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD enrollment down by 5,000 students to start 2020-21 school year

The enrollment decrease could result in $48 million in lost state revenue, according to the district.

Capital Metro's board of directors approved the public transportation agency's $390.5 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21 on Sept. 28. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
$390.5 million Capital Metro budget projects $14 million reduction in sales tax revenue

Cap Metro's sales tax revenue for the upcoming year landed between the best- and worst-case projections its CFO had presented earlier this summer.

Bear Creek Elementary School teacher Jewellyn Forrest returned to her 4th grade classroom on Sept. 8 to begin teaching virtually. The AISD school year has begun completely virtually. On Oct. 5, students will begin returning to campus. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD community grapples with in-person return

Some students are set to return to Austin ISD campuses on Oct. 5, setting up difficult decisions for parents, teachers and administrators.

Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference
Gov. Greg Abbott to allocate $171M from CARES Act to help renters at risk of eviction

Gov. Greg Abbott will allocate more than $171 million in renters assistance from the federal coronavirus relief package to eligible Texans.

(Courtesy New Braunfels Ghost Tours)
Scary good: New Braunfels Ghost Tours makes top 10 list and more Central Texas news

Read the latest Central Texas business and community news.

Travis County voter round-up, ballot box
November 2020 election guide: Who's on the ballot, where to vote and how to drop off your mail-in ballot in Travis County

Your guide to the November 2020 ballot, voting locations and mail-in ballot information for Travis County residents.

Simon Madera, owner of Taco Flats, said business is down 40% across the board but that he has readjusted the business model to stay afloat in the pandemic long term. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
After surviving six months, Austin's workers, small businesses are acknowledging pandemic's long-term reality

After months of day-to-day reassessments, many in the business community are now figuring out how to make it to the other end of the pandemic.

Gov. Greg Abbott on July 27 issued an executive order extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Lawsuit takes aim at start date for early voting as some Texas Republicans challenge Gov. Greg Abbott's order

A group of prominent Texas Republicans has embarked on a legal effort to undo the governor's executive order that extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election.

A photo of Elong Musk
After filing Travis County site plans, Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks to new gigafactory’s place in the company

Tesla has filed the intial site plans for a massive manufacturing plant in southeastern Travis County.