AUSTIN (KXAN) — An internal audit on the Northbridge Shelter conducted by the Austin Public Health Department, or APH, found “insufficient evidence” to support recent reports of unsafe conditions at the shelter, according to a memo.
Recent reports claimed that weapons and drugs/drug paraphernalia were allowed in the shelter, however, the memo states that those items are confiscated during intake and regular room checks.
Clients are required to surrender unsafe items like knives, guns, etc. before entering the shelter, and the items are tagged and kept in a secure location for the clients to collect when they leave the shelter, the memo stated.
If a client brings drugs or drug paraphernalia into the shelter, security staff confiscates the items during intake and gives them to the Austin Police Department for destruction.
The memo states that shelter staff perform frequent room checks to ensure that unsafe items and drugs/drug paraphernalia are not in the building.
If items are found during room checks, they’re confiscated, and clients receive warnings. Clients can be discharged after receiving more than one warning, but that happens on a case-by-case basis, according to the memo.
Staff at the Northbridge Shelter are trained on administering Narcan. According to the memo, since the shelter’s opening, only one overdose death has occurred there, which happened in October 2022.
The internal audit also concluded there were no incidents of physical abuse reported to management, and APD reported they did not receive any calls that indicated a pattern of violent crime at the shelter, the memo stated. Incidents involving violent crime can result in the involved clients being removed.
A safety assessment of the shelter by APD found that communication on the shelter’s behavioral expectations was good but not enforced, the memo said. Recommendations to improve safety were provided, and APH has already started implementing the following measures, according to the memo:
- Securing quotes for a wood fence around the property, including the parking area along the frontage road that has previously not been included in the fencing efforts at Northbridge.
- Repairing exterior lights.
- Trimming trees to improve exterior sightlines.
- Scheduling the installation of “no trespassing” signs along the shelter fencing.
- Securing quotes for a guard shack for the outdoor access point (estimated cost is $3,000).
- Providing security staff with updated lists and photos of current clients.
- Submitting work orders for repairs to peep holes and window locks.
- Storing security footage on a cloud-based platform (storage is for two weeks).
- Increasing the frequency of room checks.
- The Homeless Strategy Officer continues to evaluate the recommendation of an armed guard.