AUSTIN (KXAN)– It’s been 90 days since Urban Alchemy took over the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), and there has been a lot of change.

You may notice one before you even walk inside: Fewer people loitering around the building.

“We worked and built relationships with the residents who were encamped around the space, as well as those who were just kind of hanging around,” said Kirkpatrick Tyler, Urban Alchemy’s chief of government and community affairs.

He said they asked those folks if they were interested in coming inside to take advantage of the ARCH’s services and support.

“But if that wasn’t something that they were interested in, that we just asked that they find somewhere else to be because we really needed the folks in that area to be about the work of healing and building community,” he said.

Another big change comes when you walk through the ARCH’s doors: There’s no metal detector or x-ray.

“It was a trigger for a lot of people,” said Sarah Finley, ARCH care coordination manager. “That was the first thing Urban Alchemy did was take all of that stuff away to make this a more welcoming environment for everybody.”

That, Finley said, helped guests feel more relaxed.

“You don’t have to immediately have your defense up,” she said.

Finley worked at the ARCH when it was managed by Front Steps and showed KXAN some of the resource center’s biggest changes since Front Steps stepped down.

Changes include new classes for guests, like art and life skills, along with group meetings for veterans and Alcoholics Anonymous.

There’s also more space for guests; Urban Alchemy converted meeting rooms and offices.

“We have basically transitioned about 80% of the facility to be resident resident-focused space, rather than administrative space,” Tyler said.

That includes spaces to sleep; Tyler and Finley said before, Front Steps would set up cots in the shared space near the lobby, which would have to be set up in the evenings and taken down around 6:00 a.m.

“It kind of… was disheveling, if you can imagine being woken up every morning at six o’clock to roll your bed up,” Tyler said.

He said there were 110-125 beds with Front Steps, many of them ‘unstable,’ that had to be set up and torn down.

Now, he said they’ve got 130 stable beds, and many sectioned off for specific groups, like those who need medical help and others who work night shifts, so they can sleep during the day without being disturbed.

Finley said they also started serving breakfast and coffee for residents.

“Everything we do is for respect and for the guests, starting with taking triggers away, with providing coffee, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner… giving those spaces back to the residents, and making sure that every resident here feels comfortable and safe,” Finley said.

Urban Alchemy said they’ve already found permanent housing for 17 people since taking over the ARCH in October.

Tyler said he doesn’t know how that compares to Front Steps.

“What I do know through my experience in homeless services is that 17 housing placements in 90 days is pretty spectacular by anybody’s measure,” he said.

He attributed that success to their care coordinators, who connect with guests through their own lived experiences.

“It’s helped us to kind of sidestep some of the barriers and challenges that that can can easily impact organization’s success,” Tyler said.

He said the ARCH is at capacity and has a 127-person waitlist.

He said the biggest challenges ahead in their 13-month contract with the city include continuing to expand resources for residents.

“I think we have to make sure that we have additional resources for men and women who are struggling with substance abuse and mental health,” he said.

Finley feels an overall more positive atmosphere and said she plans to stay with Urban Alchemy for a long time.

“Respect goes both ways. You have to show it to get it,” she said. “Tensions are a lot less spirits are raised.”