Austin Will Open New Homeless Shelter Near UT, Narrows Possible Sites For City-Owned Camps Down To Two
Austin is a step closer to housing more people experiencing homelessness.
Dianna Grey, Austin's homeless strategy officer, said in a memo Wednesday that a city-leased hotel off Interstate 35 and Dean Keeton Street will be converted into a shelter for 55 people.
The Days Inn hotel, a few blocks away from the University of Texas at Austin, was one of many locations that the city leased to house hundreds of Austinites who were both living outdoors and at risk of getting sick with the coronavirus. City staff estimate the hotel will open up as a shelter in August.
The city is also homing in on two sites on city-owned land to serve as temporary encampments.
City of Austin staff initially rolled out a list of dozens of properties in May, which includes high-traffic parkland and other locations. After pushback from Austinites and even state lawmakers over some of the options, they pared down that list.
Officials now say they've identified two spots that could fit the bill, though they didn't announce them Wednesday. The locations have not been approved by the Austin City Council yet.
The city hopes to build out shelter on the campsites that could include 10-by-12 individual units or a single 300-person modular structure. City officials have said they want each site to have security, storage spaces, access to transportation and trash pickup, as well as access to water and electricity hookups. The sites could cost a combined $3 million to operate annually, they said.
City staff will give another update on the campsites and the shelters to the council on July 22.
Wednesday's update came as the city is stepping up enforcement of its ban on public encampments, which was reinstated by voters in May, and as it works to house as many as 300 people before the end of August.
Austin leaders and nonprofits in April made a longterm pledge to house 3,000 people within three years. The 300-person benchmark in August will be the first test in the city's effort to get more people off the street and into shelter and, ideally, into housing.
Last month, the city opened another retrofitted hotel that aims to provide temporary housing for 75 people, and it's hoping to set up overnight parking lots to serve as shelter, as well. All told, the city expects it can have 125 shelter beds available by mid-August.
To achieve the goal of 300 beds by the end of that month, city officials said they would need other shelters like the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless and the Salvation Army to raise their capacity, which has been limited since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.