(The Center Square) – Austin plans to add 450 additional shelter beds by the end of the summer, but this will still leave thousands of homeless people shelterless.
The city intends to add additional shelter beds by increasing the capacity of a bridge shelter and converting the Southeast Austin warehouse to a temporary shelter.
Increasing the capacity at the bridge shelter in North and South Austin will create another 130 shelter beds. The temporary shelter will provide around 300 shelter beds. But out of the 5,000 homeless people in Austin, fewer than 900 of those individuals receive some form of shelter.
Even at the end of the summer, when the city has 450 extra shelter beds, more than 3,600 homeless people in Austin will remain shelterless.
A memo from Interim City Manager Jesús Garza indicates that the shelter, located at Marshalling Yard, would operate for approximately one year.
Council Member José Velásquez, who represents the majority-Latino southeast district, told The Austin Chronicle, “We need to get people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing and not continue to exacerbate the issue by perpetuating a destabilizing cycle.”
In 2021, Austin voters approved Proposition B, which bans camping in public places. Residents have urged the city to take action. But Dianna Grey, the city's homeless strategy officer, said that the law is difficult to enforce since shelter beds are limited.
“If we are going to comply with the law, we need to provide them a place to be,” Grey said.
Garza said Austin remains committed to an approach that prioritizes reducing and ultimately ending homelessness.