ARCH operator Urban Alchemy will take over
By Lina Fisher, 2:12PM, Wed. Nov. 15, 2023
Women without permanent homes who were living at the Salvation Army shelter when it closed in March (Photo by Jana Birchum)
Last week, the city of Austin approved a $15 million purchase of the Downtown Salvation Army shelter at Eighth and Neches.
In May, the shelter announced it would have to close citing increased costs. The city would have lost about 10% of its emergency shelter capacity, and the only shelter accepting single women. The city’s purchase of the “Sally” will ensure continued operation of 150 beds specifically for women and transgender people.
Around 5,400 people are currently experiencing homelessness in Austin, according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, up from an estimated 4,000 in March when the Sally was at risk of closure. There are roughly 1,000 shelter beds total in town. This summer, the city opened 300 temporary beds at the Marshalling Yard in Southeast Austin, but the need will only continue to increase. The city’s July community-wide needs assessment found that another 1,000 beds will be needed by 2025. The Sally purchase also includes a retail storefront and parking lot on the 700 block of Red River Street, meaning the city now owns almost the entire block. Mayor Kirk Watson told the Austin Monitor that conversations with stakeholders will guide the future use of those properties, but right now the focus is opening the shelter’s doors.
The nonprofit Urban Alchemy will operate the shelter – they also run the Downtown ARCH, or Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. Council reluctantly approved a contract with Urban Alchemy last year, as they were the only response to a rushed solicitation after the city terminated its contract with Front Steps, the previous operator. The shelter is expected to be open by the end of the month.
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