Plan to fix ARCH problems continues into Phase 2

- "Well we call it the 'downtown pilot.'  We're really trying to change up things downtown to make sure that the clients that are trying to access services are safe," said Ann Howard, Executive Director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO.)

Both Howard and Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo feel like the ARCH is in better shape than it was 30 days ago.

"What I hear from social service providers is that their clients are saying they feel safer, they feel more comfortable coming into the ARCH for services," said Tovo.

Howard said during Phase 1 of the initiative the focus was on security, cleanliness and services.  APD brought in a couple of lights Howard said those will stay.

She said the Salvation Army also added lighting in the alley in between their building and the ARCH.

"We created a by-name list of 75 individuals that we know are always outside and need help," Howard said.  "We made sure the streets and sidewalks and alley were washed regularly and we brought in porta-potties that made a huge difference."

Now the question is what the next 30 days and beyond will look like.  Howard said they'll keep working on that list and keeping the area clean.

During the pilot, Howard and Tovo said there were at least 2 police officers stationed near the ARCH 24-7.

"It's an expensive service.  And the Austin Police Department was funding it through their overtime budget.  They've indicated that they're not able to do that moving forward so they're going to work with the team and try to keep as much police presence outside as possible for as many hours as possible," Tovo said.

"Now they're creating a post down there which means the officers will come and go on a shift change, they might get called off to help fellow officers on another call," Howard said.

As Howard mentioned they do have a list now of people they know need help, but those folks are stuck waiting because there isn't enough resources to help them.

Mayor Pro-Tem Tovo says during council's budget process they identified a little more than $2 million for Austin's homeless but more is needed.

"I hope the community will play a part, private businesses too will step up and help us meet the need," Tovo said.

And there's that question that keeps coming up -- why not just move the ARCH away from the downtown entertainment district?

"Moving a community asset like that would be a tremendous planning initiative and financial drain on all the resources.  So right now the focus needs to be on housing people," Howard said.

Howard says relocation is a conversation that can be had when they've housed those who need housing.

"Once we put all that in place and meet the needs of the people experiencing homelessness, then reliance on shelter...shrinks," Howard said.

Another big problem is drug dealers preying on the homeless.
               
Earlier this month, Austin Police issued 81 arrest warrants for dealing in the ARCH area.  Monday APD told FOX 7 that  there are 38 of those in custody.  Three are out on bond and 40 are outstanding.
 

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