AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless has new leadership in the building this week, but an ARCH employee said staff at the shelter have been largely left in the dark.
The City of Austin approved a contract with Urban Alchemy — a California-based company — late last month despite some council members noting the group doesn’t have experience running a shelter in Austin. They have done outreach.
It’s a concern shared by a current employee at the shelter, who asked to remain anonymous.
“Come Oct. 1, we have no idea what really is going to happen,” she said. “If there’s going to be a gap in services, if employees will continue to work there, we have no real idea.”
Austin City Council members said during a discussion on the contract that staff would be retained and that the goal was to avoid a gap in service.
According to a City of Austin spokesperson, a new contract is “expected to be effective in the coming days” between the city and Urban Alchemy.
“Full transition of the facility including the ARCH to the new service provider is expected to happen over time between now and September 30. Front Steps continues to operate during the transition to the new contractors, which is Urban Alchemy for the ARCH and the Austin Area Urban League for Southbridge,” the spokesperson wrote.
The city terminated its contract with Front Steps, which runs the shelter now, after the organization’s leadership structure dissolved.
“We haven’t been able to provide service to the best of our abilities, especially not effectively, because we don’t know what we can do and what we can’t do,” the employee said.
KXAN asked to speak with Urban Alchemy’s leadership and get a tour of the ARCH facility. A spokesperson for the group referred us to Austin Public Health.
APH Director Adrienne Sturrup has previously acknowledged the struggles with filling this gap in service but also credited Urban Alchemy with being a national leader in trauma-informed care.
“I believe that they will bring something to our community that we are yet to accomplish,” she said.
A current employee hopes that’s true, and hopes a goal is communicated soon.
“It’s tough because everyone who wants to work at the homeless shelter is. And it would be really detrimental for the City of Austin to lose good case workers, good client navigators.”