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City of Austin negotiates with new company to operate the ARCH

City council approved an item related to the agreement this Thursday.

AUSTIN, Texas — Citing future operational changes within the organization, a City of Austin spokesperson on July 15 confirmed the City will be discontinuing its contracts with homeless services provider Front Steps Inc.

According to a statement provided by the City, the decision was made after Front Steps' board of directors identified a need for strategic changes within the organization in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, Front Steps helps operate the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), which is located in Downtown Austin at Seventh and Neches Streets, near the Red River entertainment district.

On July 28, the Austin City Council approved an item authorizing the negotiation and execution of an agreement with Urban Alchemy to take over operations. The term would be 13.5 months beginning on Aug. 15 in an amount not to exceed $4,143,350. 

The 100-bed shelter, which opened in 2004, includes a large common-use room, public showers, public restrooms, storage lockers, laundry facilities, a kitchen and dining room, a computer room and offices for staff to provide services to clients experiencing homelessness. There is also a clinic located on the first floor.

The City's full statement  from July 15 can be read below:

"The City of Austin supports a wide array of critical social services for people experiencing homelessness, which are delivered primarily via contractual agreements with community nonprofit organizations. The City monitors both programmatic outcomes and the organizational stability of its vendors. Technical support and resources are provided to help organizations fulfill effective services of the highest quality for members of our community.  This need has greatly increased due to environmental and operational challenges due to the pandemic. 

"Over the past several months, City staff have been in conversation with the board of directors of one of those vendors, Front Steps, regarding organizational challenges faced by the nonprofit, and enlisted a third-party consultant to help guide the development of an action plan.  

"After much discussion, the Board has identified a need for an intensive strategy and reimagining of the organization to better prepare its staff and leaders to provide Homeless services in the wake of the pandemic. While Front Steps redefines its operations, the City has determined that all Front Steps contracts will be discontinued no later than Sept. 30, 2022. This will ensure the continuity of City funded services. 

"Over the years, Front Steps Inc. staff and board members have shown dedication to serving individuals who are experiencing homelessness. However, to minimize potential disruption of services for clients, the City is identifying alternate nonprofit vendors to assume city-funded programs currently delivered by Front Steps. 

"The City of Austin will continue to support quality services for those experiencing homelessness and looks forward to working diligently and collaboratively to secure critical elements of our homeless services."


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