South Austinites share concerns ahead of new homeless shelter opening

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some people in Austin are worried there’s not enough action combating Austin’s homeless crisis. They gathered at the Woodlawn Baptist Church on Tuesday to share their concerns with one another. 

Despite major players like Mayor Steve Adler and select Austin City Council Members declining the invitation, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley attended the event to help alleviate their fears. 

“I highlight that we are dealing with human beings who are in very bad situations,” Manley reminded the crowd. 

Many of these people say they’re worried about the proposed homeless shelter approved for south Austin.

They fear it will invite criminal behavior and is not a worthy investment.  

According to city documents, Austin wouldn’t pay more than $8.6 million for the property. It was last appraised at just under $3.6 million. 

Related: Austin City Council approves purchase of new homeless shelter

“I believe the city has already made up their mind about with what they are going to do,” said Steve Wiley, who lives in South Austin. “Spending all this money for the building. And then they are going to spend how much to remodel? For 100 beds?” 

Chief Manley tried to set the record straight for those who think it will be similar to the ARCH in downtown Austin, where those experiencing homelessness are often found congregated on the sidewalk. 

“It’s not a drop-in facility. You can’t show up and ask to come inside. You have to be accepted,” Manley said. 

Across town, more beds are on the way. 

The Salvation Army is preparing to accept families at the Rathgeber Center in east Austin for both emergency cases and families long-term. There will be 212 beds available. 

“We want a center here in Austin to reach those families who are in trouble and let them know that they have access at a facility like this and to get them back on their feet,” said Corey Leith, the communications director for the Salvation Army. 

The new Rathgeber Center is in its final phase of construction. Builders say the project will be complete by the end of the month. The Salvation Army hopes to begin taking in families by October. 

The nonprofit said the new shelter in south Austin will help alleviate the strain the entire city is facing. 

“Another shelter to get them off the safe, to get them to safety to have a safe place to sleep, that would be more beneficial,” Leith said. 

Manley said there will be three more town halls on Aug. 21 and 29 and Sept. 3 to provide the opportunity to speak to city council members and offer thoughts and opinions. 

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