Austin City Council approves plan for South Austin homeless shelter

The City of Austin is planning to open a new homeless shelter in South Austin, but they aren't saying exactly where yet. The goal is to bring a specific property to Austin City Council at the next meeting on June 20th. 

2,255 people were counted as experiencing homelessness in Austin this year, five percent more than the previous year. “They don't have anywhere to go,” said Ann Howard, executive director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.  

More people living on the street have moved outside of downtown staying under bridges, in tunnels and greenbelts. “We need shelter to get people off the street,” Howard said.  

Thursday, City Council voted to move forward with plans for a new homeless shelter. “The council agreed to put a shelter on the ground. To buy one, build one, make it happen and make it happen quickly,” said Howard.  

“We're looking at something to bring forward to council to consider the purchase of a property in South Austin,” said Veronica Briseno, interim homeless strategy officer for the City of Austin.  

No one in the city will currently specify exactly where the building will be located, but Briseno said they have identified a possible property that meets City Council's expectations.  

“We would like it to be in the proximity to where homeless individuals already are. We'd like it to have access to transportation, public transportation, to healthcare, either onsite or nearby, and, I believe, the resolution spoke to looking for an area that's not immediately adjacent to a neighborhood. So those were our criteria,” Briseno said. 

Advocates for people experiencing homelessness got their wish too. The new shelter will serve as a short-term solution for 50 to 100 people while service providers work to find more permanent housing for those who stay there. “We've had people in Austin living way too long in shelter,” said Howard.  

“What's really important is that shelter is not the end destination. Shelter is not housing. We need to get people out of shelter just as fast as we get them into shelter,” she added.     

Howard said that's the best way to decrease the number of people with nowhere to go. “Well, people get stuck in shelter and, when you get stuck in shelter, you go back on the street,” Howard said. 

The original goal was to open the new shelter by September, but city staff said it may take a little longer than that to make sure they meet city standards.