Council votes to rescope ARCH and get ball rolling on ‘immediate' housing

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, also known as the ARCH, is often a passionate topic...especially at City Hall. “I’m hoping, I’m praying. Because we see moms out there with children also that are homeless. And I cry. Every darn day I cry and I pray. The issue is this: It is very problematic, very dangerous, it’s still dangerous out there,” said frequent City Hall speaker Gus Pena.

At Thursday’s city council meeting, council approved a new contract for Front Steps, the non-profit that operates the ARCH. The part that’s a concern to council members like Kathie Tovo is the shelter will go from 190 beds for men only to just 130.

But the idea is to better serve those who do sleep there. “What we’re having right now is a lot of people going in there and staying in shelter but only 20% of them are actually getting wrap-around social services. So what we’re doing now is helping to be entered into a new contract to ensure that everyone that goes into that space gets social services,” Adler said.

ARCH Executive Director Greg McCormack says that level of help for those who stay there wasn’t required before, just encouraged. Now it’s required. “It’s been providing a safe place for someone who is homeless to come, get out of the elements, shower, have a bath, have a place to sleep. So that’s helping in ways but we want to really help people get completely out of the situation and that requires case management and resources,” McCormack said.

I asked McCormack, this new shift in the way the ARCH operates may fix some issues inside...but what’s happening right outside of the shelter is an ongoing problem. “It’s an issue. There’s lots of individuals out there who have no place else to go. And I’ve been mentioning that a good number of individuals who are on the outside of the ARCH never come in,” McCormack said.

McCormack says they need to engage those people who hang out in front of the ARCH to see what it is they need if it’s not a shelter like the ARCH. “The fact is that individuals on the outside of the ARCH, it’s the only place that they can be without getting into trouble. If they go to any businesses anywhere else around town they’re going to be asked to go to the ARCH. So while it’s not a solution that any of us are happy with it is providing a place for someone to be right now. We’ve ultimately got to do better."

One thing that’s intended to help...council also passed Council Member Ann Kitchen’s resolution that directs the city manager to figure out the best way to get some immediate shelter to Austin’s homeless... the options include a fabric membrane structure or an existing building on city property.

The plan is to have that in place by September.



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