A temporary homeless shelter that's operated out of a city warehouse since last year could have its operations extended for an additional $1 million.

What's happening

Last summer, City Council authorized spending $9.14 million to create a 300-bed emergency shelter in the Austin Convention Center Marshalling Yard facility. That funding for one year of operations was pulled from the city's federal American Rescue Plan Act relief funds, more than $100 million of which was dedicated to homelessness response.

On April 18, council will consider using another $1 million in ARPA funds on an eight-month contract extension with Endeavors, the service organization that's been running the Marshalling Yard shelter since last August, to maintain its work into early 2025.

If additional funding is not approved this spring, Homeless Strategy Officer David Gray said the city would immediately try to move its Marshalling Yard clients into other shelter spaces while limiting new arrivals before Endeavors' contract ends in July.

Gray said the shelter should stay open until next year given Austin's remaining gap of hundreds of beds for those needing a place to stay. He also said the facility continues offering services such as transportation, laundry, wellness classes, pet boarding, case management and three daily meals clients depend on.

"Due to the lack of availability at other shelters in the homeless response system, it is very likely that clients would not have access to these services without the Marshalling Yard," Gray said in an email.

Conditions and services at the shelter had previously been criticized by some people staying there. Complaints about repeated servings of fast food led the city to upgrade its meal plans with the Central Texas Food Bank in March.

By the numbers

The east side shelter has housed about 600 individuals since ramping up operations through late 2023. It maintained a weekly occupancy rate of 97% this year with clients staying an average of 111 days, according to the city.

Of the hundreds of people who completed their stays at the Marshalling Yard so far, more than two-thirds ended up leaving to an unknown destination.

More than 20% of clients served so far had "positive exits," or moved into more stable permanent or temporary housing. Gray pointed to the one-in-five success rate of getting shelter clients into housing—doubling the 10% rate as of January—as a sign of progress over the past few months.

The remainder of past shelter clients left due to criminal activity, noncompliance with facility rules or other reasons.

The Marshalling Yard takes in clients only on referral through Austin's Homeless Outreach Street Team and local organizations, including Urban Alchemy, Sunrise Community Church and The Other Ones Foundation. Referrals to emergency shelter can also be requested by contacting [email protected].

The cost

The bulk of Endeavors' one-year contract for the Marshalling Yard, about $8.35 million, is for shelter operations. More than $581,000 was allocated to help clients with rent or mortgage payments, offer other assistance and services, and serve daily meals.

The proposed eight-month, $1 million extension would continue operations through March 2025. At that point, the city plans to shutter the temporary shelter and convert the Marshalling Yard back into its intended use as a satellite staging and storage area for the convention center while the downtown exhibition hall is demolished and redeveloped through the late 2020s.

Gray said city staff will continue assessing the local homeless response system after the Marshalling Yard shelter closes down.