Austin, Texas has seen a major increase in unhoused people in recent years, which has made homelessness a key issue in the Texas capitol. The city has been working to address the problem; but as the homeless population in Austin reaches an all-time high, the city is doubling down on its efforts to provide more shelter to vulnerable people with nowhere else to go.
COUNTING THE HOMELESS IN AUSTIN
The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) conducts a “Point in Time” count of people experiencing homelessness in Austin and Travis County every year. ECHO’s most recent report from late January shows more than 2,300 people experiencing homelessness live in Austin. Of the people counted, 1,266 were unsheltered and 1,108 were in transitional housing, with more people found in green spaces such as city parks, nature preserves, and greenbelts this year. The percentage of the people counted who were found in green spaces shot up to 13.6% this year, from 5.2% in 2020 when the last count was done. (Note: the “Point in Time” count was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.) Some positive news from the ECHO report is that more people have exited homelessness to permanent housing in 2023 than in any previous year.
HOUSING FOR THE HOMELESS IN AUSTIN
One step the City of Austin is taking is increasing bed space at two local shelters. The goal is to create greater capacity by converting rooms from single to double occupancy at the city’s Northbridge and Southbridge shelters. The emergency shelter move will provide 130 extra beds in the coming weeks, with some new beds available since mid-June.
The City of Austin has also approved a 12-month lease agreement for the former Salvation Army Downtown Shelter space, to serve 150 homeless people nightly. Urban Alchemy, a California-based non-profit organization that operates shelters across the country, including the City’s Austin Resource Center for the Homeless or ARCH, has been contracted to operate the shelter. The lease starts July 1, 2023.
Austin also plans to use the city-owned Marshalling Yard as a temporary shelter. Located near the airport, it will be used for about a year while other additional housing is built to address the problem. It will provide up to 300 emergency beds as the city works to increase capacity in permanent supportive housing.
For other ways to help the homeless in Austin, check out Do512’s article,
OTHER WAYS TO HELP UNHOUSED AUSTINITES
Other efforts are also underway to help the unhoused population in Austin. While shelters are being expanded and new housing is being built throughout the city of Austin to get people off the streets, other programs and forms of support for the homeless population are also helping to reduce and eliminate housing insecurity. Art From the Streets, for example, continues to provide their services with the understanding that “focusing on housing alone does not achieve other equally important goals that are relevant and motivating to improving and sustaining a quality of life”. The organization supports local transient artists by encouraging them to exercise personal autonomy while developing their artistic skills, side by side with other members of the community, to uncover helpful resources such as job and housing leads.
Art From the Streets is an Austin-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was established in 1991 to give transient people a way to develop as artists and to use their creativity to climb out of homelessness. Purchasing artwork supports the artists directly. Donating to our program helps us to offer a free Open Studio for the homeless and at risk.