Austin seeks community input on downtown homelessness

City leaders held a meeting Dec. 16, 2017, to gather community input on how to address Austin's downtown homeless problem. (KXAN Photo: Richie Bowes)
City leaders held a meeting Dec. 16, 2017, to gather community input on how to address Austin's downtown homeless problem. (KXAN Photo: Richie Bowes)

AUSTIN (KXAN) –  City leaders head into 2018 with a laser focus on the downtown homeless problem. On Saturday, the city asked for input from those who call Austin home. Part of the solution is finding a new provider for services at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, or ARCH, downtown.

The mission of the ARCH is to get homeless Texans off the streets. But, more and more people notice the space and services are not enough. So people came to the forum Saturday to tell, write and describe to the city’s public health department what it should do.

Stephanie Hayden, interim director of the City of Austin Public Health Department, told KXAN, “We can’t do this work alone. We need the community to help us with this work.”

Some recommendations are basic necessities — an individual’s own space, a clean bathroom. Others range from mental health to professional services. Hayden said they’ll form the ARCH’s new mission with this feedback.

The city will take this input while they find a new organization to run the services next year. The contract is up for bid, and there will be two other meetings like this in January.

Forum No. 2: Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018

  • 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Virginia L. Brown Recreation Center
  • 7500 Blessing Ave.
  • Conference Room B

Forum No. 3: Friday, Jan. 19, 2018

  • 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center (Gymnasium)
  • 2800 Webberville Road

Every year, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO, holds a count of the homeless population. The next one will be Jan. 27. It is looking for volunteers.

These forums are a continuation of an outreach program KXAN has been tracking. Earlier this year, two phases were held that helped the city and ECHO learn more about the area around the ARCH.

The first was a constant police presence outside, and police say crime was the lowest it has been in three years. However, there was an increase in calls just blocks away. Some just say the problem moved. Now groups are working to re-scope services at the ARCH.

The Austin City Council is addressing homelessness in its “Downtown Puzzle.” It would use a hotel occupancy tax to help pay for overall improvements downtown. The city council discussed the plan again Thursday night, and members are expected to continue talking about it in March.

 

 

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