Austin City Council approve items to address homelessness

Several items targeted at addressing the homeless crisis were approved at Thursday’s Austin City Council meeting. 

The items include increasing shelter capacity, addressing mental health, and supporting organizations who already help the homeless.

For $1,268,256, the City of Austin negotiated a lease agreement with the Salvation Army for one year. This 66,826 square foot building temporarily shut down unexpectedly earlier this year, but this now allows the city to reopen the 100-bed shelter. 

"It's a little bit unfortunate, right, that everybody had to be kicked out of the [Salvation Army building] before anything was done, but opening it back up or trying to lease it is a good move," said JJ Ramirez, organizer with the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance.

The council also approved two additional items, including funding at the Northbridge shelter to provide behavioral health services to the homeless and funding to extend the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless program through the end of the year.


"We all know that addressing the needs of those that are living homeless includes providing permanent supportive housing, and we need more permanent supportive housing, but without connected services and emergency support, we can't really appropriately address the crisis that we're in, and this council understands that," said Mayor Kirk Watson.

Austinites who spoke during public comment believe these approved items are a step in the right direction, but more must be done to help Austin's growing homeless problem.

"If we want an efficient and effective system, a system that is efficient and effective at housing people who are experiencing homelessness, and we want to keep them housed and not sleeping outside, then we need a coordinated, well-organized homeless response system, and we need leadership that can bring people together around a clear, long term vision and priorities," said João Paulo M. Connolly, Organizing Director with the Austin Justice Coalition.