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Downtown Commission recommends at least 2 more homeless shelters in Austin

The city is planning to open a new shelter this September.

AUSTIN, Texas — At the Downtown Commission's monthly meeting, Bill Brice presented the latest homeless stats, compared to five years ago.

"What we've seen is a 63% increase in unsheltered homelessness. That's really the area of concern. That significant jump in unsheltered homelessness over the last five years. We haven't created any new shelter beds for any single men or women since ARCH," Brice said.

The ARCH was created in 2004.

Brice is with The Downtown Austin Alliance, a group of nearly 900 businesses in the city's center that has a lot invested in the city opening more shelters.


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"We've got the highest density of the problem in downtown. We've got one-third of the city's homeless problem within one-quarter mile of 7th and Neches Street on any given night," Brice said.

Assistant Austin Police Chief Justin Newsom also presented to the Downtown Commission. Before becoming assistant chief, he was the Downtown Area Commander, where most of the city's homeless are located.

But he said there are homeless in other parts of the city as well.

"There are homeless people in South Austin, there are homeless people in North Austin, everywhere. And so the shelters need to reflect that," Assistant Chief Newsom said.

That's part of what the Downtown Commission is recommending to the city council.

"[We need to] open at least two additional shelters in key locations in the city by September 30, 2020," one commissioner said.

That's in addition to the shelter the city is planning to open this September.

Commissioners also recommended that the council create a comprehensive database with real-time information on shelter and navigation services by November of this year.


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