(AUSTIN) KXAN — Wednesday, new faces seated behind new sets of tables lined the outside of Austin’s Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) downtown. Representatives from Austin’s Community Court, Austin Public Health, and local non-profits waited at tables helping to answer questions for people experiencing homelessness.
Greg McCormack, the executive director of Front Steps (who operates the ARCH), calls this effort “Start a Conversation.”
He explained that around 70 percent of the people who hang out on the street in the area outside the ARCH (near 7th and Trinity) does not actually come inside for services. McCormack said, it’s not because the ARCH is turning people away, this happens even when the shelter is not at capacity.
“This is just the first of what he hopes are many outreach efforts to try and figure out how we can be a better assistance to them,” McCormack said.
McCormack explained the goal is to be available to talk with those people and get them inside the ARCH to receive services. Alternatively, if those people are not interested in ARCH resources, McCormack said the teams now staffed outside the ARCH want to point them toward other services they can use.
McCormack said that over the last couple of years the number of people experiencing homelessness who hang out outside the arch has been on the rise.
Last year Austin Police focused on the area around the ARCH and found that many people outside were coming to prey on the people there who were actually looking for a path out of homelessness. APD made many arrests and brought down the number of people loitering outside. But eventually, APD couldn’t afford to keep consistent officers stationed there, McCormack said the numbers of people outside the ARCH went back up at that time and have ebbed and flowed since then.
“A lot of the clients who do come into the ARCH don’t feel safe coming in,” McCormack explained.
Which is why he and his staff plan to continue holding events like this, to help find permanent solutions to get everyone there access to the resources they need.