Austin City Council to discuss small homeless shelter, possibly in South Austin

The City of Austin's annual "point in time" count of those experiencing homelessness in Austin continues to rise.

Earlier this year the city reported the number had increased 5% to 2,255 people on the streets and the number of those “unsheltered” also increased.

Ann Howard with Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) says it's happening all over the city.

"We've seen that concentration downtown for a long time but it's beginning to push out," Howard said.  

Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen said this is because people don't have a place to be.

"The bottom line is that people are living on the streets and in the greenbelts because they don't have a place to be," Kitchen said. "They don't have a place to live and so we need shelter."

This is something Kitchen has been working on for some time and this week the city will take a major step toward "immediate housing-focused shelter." 

"What that means is it's a place for people to live, connecting them to permanent housing," Kitchen said. 

Council is set to start sorting out some important details at Thursday's meeting.

"To move forward on a property, to move forward on asking a service provider to operate it and to move forward by asking the city manager to find the funds for operating in the budget when it comes back to us," she said.

The resolution calls for a shelter with 50 to 100 beds.

"You know we're talking about a smallish shelter, smaller than the ARCH and we want to serve people that aren't being served so maybe that's single adults, could be couples," Kitchen said.

Kitchen says the recommendation is to use an existing structure, possibly south of the river.

"We think so, we know that one of the properties that the staff has located as a potential is in south Austin," Kitchen said.  

Kitchen's office says it won't be in a residential neighborhood.  

Howard is in favor of the shelter, but the city needs to keep its eye on the ball, so to speak.

"Our action plan calls for 3 or so smaller shelters around town," Howard said. "There are some communities that would say 'we've got 10 council districts, let's have 10 shelters, one in each district.' I don't know that we need that many. Because we must stay focused on the endgame, getting people off the streets into housing, back to work, back to better health."

Kitchen says the goal was to have the shelter in place by September but it may take a little bit longer than that since the city may be using an existing structure.