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Closed Salvation Army shelter in Downtown Austin will get new life

The Austin City Council discussed a deal on Thursday that will extend operations at the site.

AUSTIN, Texas — When the Salvation Army shelter on East Eighth Street shut its doors back in April, Austin City Councilmember Zohaib "Zo" Qadri (District 9) said it was unfortunate to see as an Austin resident and leader.

"The Salvation Army kind of abruptly stated that they were pulling out without much of a notice to the residents of the shelter in the district – a shelter that largely houses or housed women and children," Qadri said. "So, you know, that was a huge disappointment for us."

Now the City of Austin has reached a compromise and solution that Qadri believes will help those experiencing homelessness. The Austin City Council on Thursday approved a 12-month lease agreement for the former Salvation Army shelter that will cost more than $1 million.

The site will be operated by California-based nonprofit Urban Alchemy, which also provides services at the ARCH, or the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. The council also approved a contract for Urban Alchemy to add more funding, extend the ARCH program and run the former Salvation Army shelter, providing 150 beds.

Urban Alchemy will get more than $4 million. 

"We'll have care coordination, we'll have substance abuse classes, we'll have connections for housing, connections for employment, we'll have arts engagement and health and wellness," said Kirkpatrick Tyler, Urban Alchemy's chief of government and community affairs. 

The Salvation Army's downtown shelter shut its doors in April after the organization said the building was "beyond repair." 

"We're going to start out with life-saving renovations that make the space habitable," Tyler said. "Our team has been able to do some preliminary identification of critical things that need to be addressed so that it can be a habitable place."

KVUE also reached out to the Salvation Army for a statement.

"We look forward to our continued work with the City of Austin. The approval of the lease is based on the National Salvation Army's Board of Trustees and the City coming to agreeable terms. We remain committed to serving the Austin community and working with all our partners to advance solutions to homelessness," said Major Lewis Reckline, area commander for Salvation Army - Austin.

Later this summer, City leaders will also consider a temporary emergency shelter that will provide around 300 more beds for people experiencing homelessness.

ECHO, or the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, estimates there are thousands of people experiencing homelessness in Austin. Since the city's camping ban was reinstated in May 2021, many of these individuals have spread out throughout the city or gone into hiding, making it harder to connect them with services.

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