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Search begins for site of new short-term homeless shelter in Austin

The go-to address for Austin's homeless population is about to change. The Austin City Council agrees that the ARCH at 500 E. 7th Street can no longer be the hub of homeless activity. (CBS Austin)

The search has started for where in Austin to put new short-term housing for the homeless. The odds are against the pilot program being setup in downtown Austin, but council members say they're open to any recommendations from city staff.

The go-to address for Austin's homeless population is about to change. The Austin City Council agrees that the ARCH at 500 E. 7th Street can no longer be the hub of homeless activity.

“I think it was time for a change,” said Greg McCormack, executive director of Front Steps which operates the ARCH. “It's just not ideal.”

The Austin City Council voted to reduce the number of beds available at the shelter from 190 to 130. The freed-up space will be used to provide support services that go beyond a meal, a shower and a place to sleep.

“Going down to 130, all of those individuals will be involved in case management. And so, we hope to be able to make steps forward faster and get them into housing quicker,” said McCormack.

With the ARCH downsizing, council members voted to find another site to setup short-term housing for the homeless.

“I think it would be a good idea if it was not in downtown,” said McCormack.

Austin's homeless population is already starting to decentralize, moving to Riverside Drive, Slaughter Lane and Manchaca Road.

“It used to be that most of the conversation centered around the ARCH downtown, but what we're seeing is more and more folks raising real red flags in other parts of the town, even more than in the past,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

City staff has until May to make recommendations on where the temporary housing will be located and what it will look like.

“We're ready for a next step,” said McCormack.

If the recommendations are made in May, a new short-term homeless shelter is expected to be up and running in September.

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