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Salvation Army's shelter for homeless women in Austin is closing this week

Julia Reihs
The Salvation Army's shelter in downtown Austin has been the only shelter for single women experiencing homelessness in the area.

Salvation Army's downtown shelter for people experiencing homelessness is officially closing.

Austin's homeless strategy officer said Wednesday that the shelter — a resource for single women for nearly 40 years — would close by Saturday and that the remaining residents had been connected with housing.

The shelter abruptly announced it was closing in February, a decision that sent nearly 100 people scrambling to find a place to stay.

The shelter was gifted to the nonprofit by philanthropist Dick Rathgeber in 1985 and has been the only shelter for single women experiencing homelessness in the downtown area.

At an Austin City Council committee meeting Wednesday, Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said the closure erodes Austin's already lacking capacity for emergency shelter. Grey said the city has roughly 1,000 beds, compared to an estimated 4,600 people experiencing homelessness.

"We are absolutely cognizant of the fact that we have a frank shortage right now," she said. "So [we are] looking at what the best functioning system would be in terms of the balance of shelter beds and permanent housing."

The Salvation Army has said it was "no longer tenable to continue investing in the necessary infrastructure" and that it plans to sell the property after years of financial losses — roughly $3 million a year.

The shelter was set to close March 15, but the city stepped in to keep it open until all the occupants had a place to stay.

In an update to council, Grey showed 42% of the people at the shelter left to go to an emergency shelter. Nearly a quarter were not accounted for or didn't get housing.

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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