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Austin OKs $8.1 Million Partnership To Open A New Domestic Violence Shelter

The SAFE Alliance's children's shelter at the Salvation Army's Rathgeber Shelter off Tannehill Road.
Gabriel C. Pérez
The city has approved a partnership with the SAFE Alliance to set up a new domestic violence shelter.

The City of Austin is partnering with the SAFE Alliance to set up a new $8.1 million shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

Under the deal approved Thursday, the shelter will be set up in one of the hotels the city acquired to house homeless Austinites during the pandemic. It will be run by SAFE, the Austin-area nonprofit that provides services to survivors of domestic violence.

Council Member Greg Casar, who spearheaded a budget amendment last summer to set aside money for the partnership, said the investment was "a long time coming." He said part of the funding comes from the city's controversial decision to reallocate money from the police budget.

"There's been a lot of conversation about the city's budget process last year, and I think that this item can really clearly show how we can bring solutions to the table that were unable to be funded before," he said. "Now, we can bring that forward and show real safety benefits to the community. ... 20 years of not expanding family violence shelters is far too long."

The city has not yet finalized which of its hotel properties will be used, but Casar said at a news conference Wednesday that the city would find housing for anyone who is displaced.

Advocates and representatives from SAFE said there’s an immediate need for this shelter in Austin. Domestic violence has spiked during COVID-19, and SAFE has a perennial waitlist for services.

Yvette Mendoza Rouen, vice president of residential and support services for SAVE, said the nonprofit helps shelter roughly 90 people a day, but the need in Austin has exceeded its capacity.

"This new program will double our shelter capacity," she said at Wednesday's news conference. "So that’s huge, and it’s desperately needed. And we will be able to, once we go into it, we will be filling it up and looking to the future."

The hotel will be retrofitted, a process that could take anywhere from 18 to 24 months.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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