AUSTIN (KXAN) — A coalition of ministry and advocacy groups will speak on the challenge of re-housing individuals who will soon be displaced as the Salvation Army downtown shelter prepares to close this month.
“The Salvation Army has come to the decision that they can no longer continue to offer the level and quality of care their brothers and sisters need at the facility,” a prior press release from the group about the closing stated. “The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the challenges of operating the facility with the staff and support necessary, and it is no longer tenable to continue investing in the necessary infrastructure.”
The downtown center primarily provides shelter for women and children. Representatives from Central Presbyterian Church, the Harm Reduction Alliance and Street Youth Ministry said individuals currently staying at the shelter downtown have approached them for help, but the advocacy groups are struggling to find open beds anywhere in the city.
“We had 10-15 women out there saying they did not have anywhere, they were not being helped,” said Andi Brauer, Central Presbyterian’s mission coordinator. “Some are not getting the help they need, and they will be falling through the cracks in two weeks.”
One such individual is Carolyn Williams.
“Where are we going to go?” she said. “This is ludicrous.”
The advocacy groups in communication with people like Williams are now on the City of Austin to address the shortage of shelter beds and provide additional resources.
In a statement, the Salvation Army said it is working closely with its partners to help relocate everyone currently staying there.
According to a city spokesperson, the Salvation Army informed the city about funding issues and the potential it might close – but did not tell Austin Public Health about the March closure. The spokesperson said the city was made aware of the closure through media reports.
While the city does not own Salvation Army’s downtown facility, a spokesperson said it will redirect funds earmarked for the center once it closes, but “funding enough will not be able to replace the capacity the downtown shelter has provided. The forging of additional community partnerships will be necessary to replace this loss.”
Austin’s homeless strategy division has been in regular contact with The Salvation Army to identify other shelter options for displaced guests.
According to a statement sent to KXAN Thursday from The Salvation Army, the organization “agree[s] with [their] partners in this space that the crisis of homelessness in our City remains an enormous challenge.” The statement goes on to say that closing the downtown facility will help in The Salvation Army’s mission long term.
The group opened the Rathgeber Center for Families in east Austin in 2020, which operates 300 beds, according to the statement, and The Salvation Army looks “forward to continuing to work with the City as a collaborative partner now and in the future.”
The Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) plans to announce “new resources for addressing homelessness” on Friday.