Austin has not expanded its city-owned homeless shelter system since the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, or the ARCH, was built in 2004, but that could change next week as the City Council has tapped a Central South Austin tract for its newest shelter operation.
The 26,594-square-foot lot at 1112 W. Ben White Blvd. is expected to be sold to the city for $8.6 million from Alma Tierra Ventures LLC, according to a late addition to City Council’s June 20 agenda. In January, Austin City Council committed to opening a new city-owned homeless shelter in wake of the ARCH slimming down 60 beds to streamline its resources and better connect clients to case management services.
In the January vote, City Council committed to having the shelter up and operating by Sept. 30; however, City Council Member Ann Kitchen said last week it was unlikely the city would make that deadline.
Initially proposed to run as an emergency shelter, the new operation is also expected to focus its resources on case management and connecting people to permanent housing. Interim homelessness strategy officer Veronica Briseño said that process could take at least six months per client. The new shelter will have a maximum of 100 beds, and services will be limited to people staying at the shelter, per a recommendation from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a group the city has consulted throughout their efforts this year.
The Central South Austin tract marks a half-way point along Ben White Boulevard between MoPac and I-35. The latest information from the Travis Central Appraisal District shows the address is home to Learning Programs International, an adult education school, and International Studies Abroad, a study abroad organization.
Austin’s homeless issue has taken center stage in recent years. The unsheltered homeless population has jumped 142% in the last five years, and the total homeless population has grown 5% each of the last two years, according to a point-in-time count by the local Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO. Austin City Council made homelessness its top priority heading into 2018 where it has remained since.