What happened?: The city of Austin announced March 10 it will keep The Salvation Army’s downtown shelter, located at 501 E. Eighth St., Austin, in operation for up to 30 days while alternative housing arrangements are made for the remaining residents. The extension will cost up to $100,000 and be funded by the city, according to a press release.

What's next?: Over the next 30 days, The Salvation Army will work with the city’s Homeless Strategy Division to find housing, transportation and move-in assistance for 48 residents who still need to relocate as of March 10. Residents will relocate to other local shelters, transitional housing, board and care programs, apartments, or hotels in case there is a need for short stays in between housing placements.

The Salvation Army will continue to provide case management to residents who move to temporary housing without the service.

The context: The Salvation Army has received criticism from city officials, activists and residents following the Feb. 17 announcement that its downtown shelter would close just one month later.

“I’m disappointed that The Salvation Army didn’t adequately communicate the timeline of this closure to the District 9 constituents who are using this shelter to lift themselves out of unfortunate circumstances,” Austin City Council Member Zo Qadri said. “The urgency of this crisis is real and the fear and uncertainty it has created is as unfortunate as it was avoidable.”

In recent years, The Salvation Army received contracts around $600,000 from the city for the downtown shelter; this year, the organization was contracted over $1 million, according to city documents.

However, The Salvation Army Board Member Rudy Garza told Community Impact he reached out to the city in January 2020 and again to former City Manager Spencer Cronk in May 2021 to seek city support, but to no avail.

“We didn't just wake up one morning and say, ‘Let's close down the shelter.’ I mean, we tried for three years to have the city help us,” Garza said. “We are really grateful for the support that we're getting from Mayor [Kirk] Watson and [interim City Manager] Jesús Garza. I feel like had they been in place several years ago, maybe we'd have a different outcome today.”

When asked about past negotiations with The Salvation Army, the city pointed to a March 8 press release, which did not mention previous talks with the organization in 2020 or 2021.