AUSTIN, Texas — The city council says homelessness in Austin has reached a crisis point.
On Thursday, the council voted to approve a plan to build a new emergency shelter -- and start a new contract with the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), which will cut back on the number of beds the ARCH offers.
When the downtown shelter first opened in 2004, it was built with 100 bunk beds. Now, 15 years later, the ARCH accommodates nearly twice as many people, which is why they need these mats.
Today, the ARCH can only really provide immediate help.
"A place to sleep, a shower and a meal," said Greg McCormack, executive director for the ARCH.
But he says they want to do more.
Meanwhile, the city council has a plan that would take away 60 beds or mats.
"So when you think reducing the beds, it sounds like you're taking services away," he said.
But McCormack said by doing this the shelter can actually do more. By moving out the 60 mats, they can move in more case managers and offer more resources for the existing 130 clients.
Right now, they are just cycling people in and out without helping them.
"I think we need a next step," McCormack said. "Someone who after they get their feet on the ground are ready for getting a job, sustaining a job, they need somewhere to be maybe for the next six months, and maybe that's a transitional housing situation before getting into their own apartment."
But getting rid of 60 mats would get rid of 60 places to sleep, and McCormack recognizes that challenge.
"We are meeting weekly, talking about what this impact will be because we know there will be a reaction," he said.
Late Tuesday, the council sent out a press release announcing a new emergency homeless shelter to open by Sept. 30. It didn't say where.
"In 2011, the other non-profits put together one non-profit that would work on homelessness issues 24/7," said Ann Howard, the executive director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. "And that's ECHO."
ECHO helped the council come up the with the Action Plan.
"And that's outreach and shelter, housing and support services, addressing disparities in the data, effective collaboration and the public-private partnership that's needed to fund this effort," said Howard.
All five points working together to hopefully reduce homelessness in our community.