In a May 25 press release, NB Housing Partners announced that plans to renovate the Comal County Senior Citizens Center, located at 655 Landa St., New Braunfels, for use as the permanent home of the First Footing program were abandoned.

NB Housing Partners and the Salvation Army had entered into a verbal agreement with the Comal County Senior Citizens Foundation to eventually use the property to house individuals experiencing homelessness, according to the release.

NB Housing Partners and other local nonprofit organizations joined to create the First Footing shelter program in February 2021.

The program uses hotel space to house those experiencing homelessness locally and has served more than 300 individuals, over 80% of whom are from the New Braunfels area, said Kellie Stallings, administrator of First Footing.

Plans to move the program into the former senior citizens center were halted when detailed environmental review and flood plain mapping study conducted at the location showed that extensive flood-proofing requirements for compliance with the city of New Braunfels occupancy codes, according to the release.

While NB Housing Partners and the Salvation Army had prepared for some expenses associated with flood mitigation, the addition of up to two years to the construction timeline were not expected and does not align with the program’s relocation schedule, according to the release.

“We are saddened 655 Landa St. didn’t work out for the First Footing program. However, NB Housing Partners and its partner agencies remain committed to filling gaps in the housing continuum for vulnerable people in our community,” Stallings said in the release. “We are continuing to explore other locations right now. As New Braunfels grows, so does the problem of homelessness. It only goes away with coordinated, effective intervention.”

The organization previously tried to purchase a hotel located at 201 Loop 337, Stallings said in an email, but the deal fell through. Funding provided by the Community Development Block Grant was tied to the location and cannot be transferred to another site, she said.

No other potential sites have been announced, and the group plans to continue leasing hotel space until a new location is secured, Stallings said.

“We have short-term funding to continue our current hotel lease,” Stallings said in an email. “This option is not cost-effective or sustainable in the long term and utilizes resources that could be diverted to direct services.”

In addition to providing shelter, the program connects individuals with local support resources, assists with job searches and ultimately works to find permanent housing.

The program primarily serves single men and couples, Stallings said, while youth are referred to Connections Individual and Family Services, and single women and woman-led families are referred to Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels or the Crisis Center of Comal County.

“Matthew 25:34-40 describes our commitment to ‘the least of these.’ We consider it a calling for our entire community to feed, clothe, welcome, heal and love people in need,” Stallings said in the release. “We also know that ensuring those experiencing homelessness get off the streets and receive help benefits the safety and well-being of both the person and the community.”