Austin City Council vote on ARCH capacity reduction, new shelter ultimatum shifts homelessness strategy

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless is the lone city-operated homeless shelter.

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless is the lone city-operated homeless shelter.

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless will shrink its capacity by 60 beds, and a new shelter should be up and running by the end of September, both moves reflecting a shift in strategy in the city’s battle against its growing homelessness issue.

The new-look ARCH, the lone city-operated homeless shelter at the corner of Seventh and Neches streets in downtown Austin, will recede from 190 to 130 beds, but the amount of clients who get connected to the full menu of case management services offered in the Austin will increase from 30 percent to 100 percent. It is part of a new model Austin City Council unanimously approved at its Jan. 31 meeting.

Austin’s homeless population grew by 5 percent between 2017-18, while the amount of unsheltered homeless people jumped by roughly 22 percent. City Council, which has received constant criticism from the community for a lack of resources in battling homelessness, has listed it as its top policy priority.

Bill Brice, head of the Downtown Austin Alliance, an organization of downtown stakeholders, once called the ARCH one of the city’s “greatest failures” in addressing homelessness, but he said he supports the new scope of the ARCH.

“We know it’s critically important that we don’t just turn the dial on the ARCH; The entire system needs to be bolstered in order for the ARCH to be more effective,” Brice said.

Gus Peña, president and co-founder of Veterans for Progress and a regular critic of the city’s homelessness efforts, called the ARCH “problematic.”

“We need to do a better concerted effort to help the homeless,” Peña said.

Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said she could not give an exact date of when the new ARCH model will take hold but said, “definitely by the end of the year.” Hayden said the shift would require training and hiring new staff.

Although supportive of the shift, Brice emphasized the need for more shelter space, and so did City Council on Jan. 31 with its unanimous support to have a new homeless shelter up and running by Sept. 30. Brice said it is the first expansion of city-run shelter space since the ARCH opened in 2004.

City Manager Spencer Cronk will come back to City Council by May 2 with Austin’s best options for building a new homeless shelter by the end of September. The resolution, brought by District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen, stops short of directing how the shelter should be built but says it cannot be next to an existing residential neighborhood without the neighbors’ consent, and it must provide a pathway to permanent housing.

Greg McCormack, executive director of Front Steps, the nonprofit that partners with the city to run the ARCH, was unavailable for comment.

SHARE THIS STORY
By 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 Su


MOST RECENT

The Burnet Road location of Taco Cabana was one of 19 to close. (Courtesy Taco Cabana)
North Austin location of Taco Cabana on Burnet Rd. now closed

The national chain closed 19 locations in Texas.

Austin City Council is considering an end to enforcement of low level marijuana possession laws. (SHELBY SAVAGE/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER)
Support grows among Austin City Council members who want to end local penalties for low-level marijuana possession

If successful, the Austin Police Department would no longer hand out arrests or citations for possession of marijuana with no intent to distribute.

dell seton university medical center
Ascension Texas names new regional hospital president

Ascension Texas announced Jan. 16 that Timothy Brierty has assumed the role of regional hospital president, effective immediately.

Prep will bring shared commercial kitchen space to Austin this summer

Prep, a company that provides shared commercial kitchen space for local entrepreneurs, will open a …

Rendering Courtesy Baldridge Architects Office
Sorek Barbershop & Menswear to open on ground floor of Arrive Hotel

Sorek Barbershop & Menswear will open in the ground-floor retail space at the East Austin Arrive hotel, 1813B …

Howler Brothers to open surf-inspired clothing and accessories store on South Congress

Howler Brothers—a locally based, surf-inspired clothing and accessories company—will open a new retail …

zanjero park water
Travis County commissioners pursue easement to bring water to Las Lomitas subdivision

Travis County commissioners are working to address colonias—unincorporated areas in the county that lack basic utilities.

New skincare clinic SkinSpirit coming to North Lamar

Skincare clinic SkinSpirit—the largest provider of Botox and dermal fillers in the U.S. according to its …

Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case, the first case of the contagious viral infection in Travis County since 1999. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Austin Public Health confirms city’s first rubella case since 1999

Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case, the first case of the contagious viral infection in Travis County since 1999.

Travis County commissioners will receive preliminary estimates for a new peace officer step pay scale at their Jan. 28 meeting. (Courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Office)
Travis County commissioners consider revisions to peace office pay

Travis County commissioners are considering options that will revise the pay scale for peace officers, including law enforcement, corrections and park rangers.

The 44 East project will reach 570 feet in height with 322 residential units and 3,534 square feet of commercial space. (Rendering courtesy IntraCorp)
Planned 49-story Rainey Street district project clears major hurdle on way to 2022 completion date

The project will include 322 residential units and 3,534 square feet of commercial space.

Texas oil and gas industry could see a major slowdown in 2020

The oil and natural gas industry paid a record-setting $16.3 billion in taxes and royalties to local governments and the state in 2019, the Texas Oil and Gas Association announced Tuesday.

Back to top