AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Sobering Center will be converted into a quarantine shelter for the homeless, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, county commissioners unanimously approved the change.

The downtown Austin space will be used to shelter people who are high-risk, but aren’t showing symptoms and have not tested positive for COVID-19.

Those in the homeless community who have tested positive or are showing symptoms are being sheltered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on N. Interstate 35. Others who had contact with those individuals are being housed at other area hotels, according to commissioners.

The city of Austin, which partners with Travis County in running the Sobering Center, will increase its budget for Fiscal Year 2020 and moving forward, to help with quarantine operating costs.

The commission discussed a Sobering Center board meeting held Monday, in which board members expressed concern that Sobering Center employees would become frontline caretakers if the center were to be converted.

The Sobering Center in Austin
The Sobering Center in Austin (KXAN Photo)

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said while she understands their concern, she wants people to realize as the virus spreads, more than just essential workers will be caring for people with the virus.

“Many of us will find ourselves as frontline caretakers in our homes with relatives, so I want to prepare us for that,” Eckhardt said. “I don’t want to sugarcoat this. I think most of us will find we are hands-on taking care of someone who is COVID-positive at some point over the next six months.”