Initiative to clean up the ARCH shows positive results

Six weeks after the city unveiled new safety measures near its largest homeless shelter downtown, leaders involved say it's working.

Six weeks after the city unveiled new safety measures near its largest homeless shelter downtown, leaders involved say it's working.

The Austin Police Department, a partner in the new initiative, said fewer people in the area near the ARCH have called 911 in the month since the city took steps to make the area cleaner and safer for those in need of services.

The average number of calls for the months in 2017 before the change were 241. In the month after the initiative, 183 calls were made.

APD points out officers are at the site 24/7, so people in need could have flagged down officers instead of picking up the phone to call 911, and that could account for a portion of the change.

KVUE first reported on the new initiative when it began on August 15. Its goal was to address cleanliness, safety and access to services for people who need them.

It includes serving meals to only those who are clients of the ARCH, putting up two mobile lights on opposite sides of the facility, and keeping an APD presence there.

Social workers have also started making lists of clients and found out something seemingly positive about the first list of 75.

Ann Howard is Executive Director of the Ending Community Homeless Coalition or ECHO. She explained, "When we made that list and then heard there were 80 some odd people who police secured warrants for their arrests in that area selling drugs, none of those 75 were on that list of 80 something, and I think that's very significant."

Howard said clients, pedestrians, and business owners have commented the area seems calmer since the change.

She believes it's a positive first step towards the larger goal which is getting housing for the homeless.

The next step, she said, is more resources to keep programs like these running.

She's hopeful a big vote at Thursday's city council meeting that would allocate hotel occupancy taxes towards addressing homelessness will pass.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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