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Austin will pay $100,000 to keep The Salvation Army shelter open for another month

A sign on a building says The Salvation Army.
Julia Reihs
The Salvation Army's downtown Austin shelter was expected to close mid-March but will now stay open for another month.

The Salvation Army's downtown shelter will stay open — for now.

Weeks ago, the nonprofit quietly announced it would close the facility that's been a resource for decades March 15, giving dozens of residents little notice to relocate. The City of Austin announced Friday that it's going to pay up to $100,000 to keep it open another month, and that it's working with Salvation Army to find homes for approximately 50 residents.

In a statement, Mayor Kirk Watson said it's a temporary fix but thanked city staff for working to act quickly to keep the shelter open as residents resettle.

"From day one, I’ve pushed The Salvation Army to keep the shelter open while they sell the building and they’ve finally relented at least for the short term," he said.

The nonprofit's advisory board approved the plan to keep the shelter open while city staff and The Salvation Army relocate residents.

In a statement, Salvation Army said the closure came after "several years of negotiations with [Austin] without any resolution," and that it was continuing to help clients at its two other shelters in Austin, which can house up to 300 people.

"The Salvation Army will continue to safely exit clients at The Downtown Shelter as client plans finalize now and through the upcoming weeks and ensure remaining clients have safely exited no later than April 30," the statement read.

Watson and other Austin City Council members called out the nonprofit Wednesday during a meeting, saying the lack of communication left clients "abandoned."

Salvation Army staff told council at the meeting that they were going ahead with a sale of the property, which the nonprofit acquired in 1985. They said the nonprofit could no longer provide adequate service for shelter clients and that it was losing as much as $3 million a year.

Salvation Army Major Lewis Reckline said Wednesday that the shelter's closure had been discussed with city staff earlier this year. Residents say they weren't told until mid-February, giving them little time to find new homes.

In a memo to council announcing the deal, the city's Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said her office was working to provide local resettlements for shelter clients. The Salvation Army said Wednesday it had offered some people bus vouchers to stay at the nonprofit's Dallas shelter.

Grey told council she would provide an update on resettlements next Friday.

This post has been updated with a statement from the Salvation Army.

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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