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New city agreement with ARCH would shift focus to housing

Thursday, January 31, 2019 by Andrew Weber, KUT

The Austin City Council will vote Thursday on renewing the contract for Front Steps, the operator of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. The new agreement could bring systemic changes to the city’s homeless shelter.

One of those changes would reduce the number of beds from 190 to 130 and focus more resources on helping people transition out of homelessness. It would also phase out the first-come, first-served model that often turns to a lottery system for admissions.

At times, the city has “asked too much” of ARCH, said Ann Howard, executive director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. The new model, she said, would move people in and out more quickly.

“We ought to have flow through the system. Folks come in and solve their problems, solve their homelessness in a quicker fashion,” Howard said. “So that more people get to come in and go out. And that is what we’re looking for.”

The new contract would require all people passing through ARCH’s doorways to get case management services and what’s called a coordinated assessment, which is the first step to getting transitional or permanent housing for Austin’s homeless. The city found only 25 to 30 percent of ARCH clients receive case management and that coordinated assessments aren’t always done upon entry.

If approved, the new contract would begin in April.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Martin do Nascimento/KUT.

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