City of Austin working to add more beds to homeless shelter

On any given night, Austin has one shelter bed for every five people who are experiencing homelessness

The city is working to fix that.

"When you look at what we've done over the last four years, we spent a considerable sum of money, at least, unofficially, over $200 million, to try to deal with the issues of people who are experiencing homelessness. We haven't decreased the amount of people experiencing homelessness. In fact, it's increased," said Interim City Manager Jesus Garza.

Homeless strategy officer Dianna Grey briefed the council on shelter capacity in Austin.

"In May of this year, we had 880 active beds," she said.

The city owns 38% of those shelter beds and the rest are run by nonprofit partners. According to Grey's data, Austin has one shelter bed for every five people who are homeless.

In the FY2022, there was a 92% shelter bed utilization rate with an average shelter stay of 115 days.

"Over 50% are exiting to known permanent housing locations [and]12%, we know, return to the streets, or they may enter an institution that could be a hospital, a nursing home, or maybe facing incarceration," said Grey.

Grey told the council the goal is to have 1,500 beds by 2025. Right now, there are three projects underway that will produce 245 beds.


"We have expanded to double occupancy [at Northbridge] that is complete, we are in the process of expanding to double occupancy in rooms at Southbridge, and you may know that Esperanza community is in the process of creating micro shelters at their site," she said.

The city’s nonprofit partners are also working on additional projects, but Grey says it is too early to report what those could produce.

Interim City Manager Garza says it is going to take teamwork to fix the homeless issue.

"When I was a private citizen, it looked as if the city owned this issue in its totality, when, in fact, just a few short months here, it's clearly a multi-jurisdictional issue. It involves the county, it involves central health, it involves the City of Austin, it involves the veteran's administration, and a host of other private partners that we absolutely need to lean on to help us address the issue of homelessness," said Garza.