AUSTIN (KXAN) — Beginning this month, the City of Austin said it will expand shelter to an additional 130 people experiencing homelessness as part of an effort to address homelessness in the Austin community, according to a city news release.
The 130 shelter beds are being created by converting rooms from single to double occupancy at the city’s Northbridge and Southbridge shelters as part of an effort to expand emergency shelter capacity, the release said. It comes amid the community’s ongoing efforts to provide permanent housing for an additional 3,000 Austinites by the end of 2024, per the city.
The city said the Northbridge conversion is expected to be completed this week, and new beds will be available by June 13. Furnishings and equipment are on order for the Southbridge shelter, and the goal is to welcome additional guests in July, city officials said.
“Homelessness is a social and economic condition, caused by a large number of factors. As a City, we have the responsibility to care for the homeless in our communities in a way which advocates for all their needs – health, safety, shelter, and economic support,” District 4 Council Member José “Chito” Vela said in the release. “That’s why I’m so glad the Interim City Manager and the Mayor have made it a priority to increase our emergency shelter bed capacity.”
Vela and Austin City Council members Jose Velasquez and Zohaib “Zo” Qadri recently toured the Southbridge shelter, the release added.
“The Southbridge shelter provides vital support to some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” Velásquez said in the release. “In a recent visit to the shelter, I saw first-hand how the residents are provided with support services and connected to stable housing. The decision to adopt innovative strategies that allow for double occupancy will significantly maximize the shelter’s potential, decrease the number of people experiencing homelessness and bring us closer to our City’s goal of reducing unsheltered homelessness.”
Additionally, the city is working to increase the number of Austinites who can be housed in permanent supportive housing. City officials added permanent supportive housing capacity has already been increased, with about 500 clients served since January 2021. Another 1,000 units for people exiting homelessness are in the development pipeline.
“If we want to live up to our reputation as a compassionate city, we need to do everything we can to help our least fortunate neighbors who are sleeping on our streets and in our creeks. That includes short-term solutions like expanding our shelter capacity and long-term solutions that address the root causes of homelessness,” Qadri said. in the release. “I look forward to working with all of our partners to ensure that every step we take on this journey is cohesive, collaborative, and well-coordinated.”
This week, Austin City Council will consider a 12-month leaser agreement for the former Salvation Army Downtown Shelter, as well as a contract with Urban Alchemy to operate the recently-shuttered site with the capacity to serve 150 people nightly.
Council will consider this summer providing up to 300 more beds by establishing a temporary emergency shelter facility at the city-owned marshalling yard, which is located on Airport Commerce Drive near the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 183 and State Highway 71, the city said.
To learn more about homelessness in Austin, visit the city’s homelessness website.