Austin Interim City Manager Jesús Garza announced Wednesday that the City is actively working with The Salvation Army on options to ensure guests at the organization’s downtown shelter have somewhere to go, despite The Salvation Army’s plans to close the shelter on March 15.
The Salvation Army announced on Feb. 17 that the shelter would be closing. The news came as a surprise to shelter residents and partner organizations in the homeless response community. To address the situation, the City will announce detailed plans later this week on how the current guests of the downtown shelter will be assisted.
“This is a vitally important issue to Council and to the community,” Garza said. “We are exploring all options for placement and will have a solution by the end of this week that ensures each Salvation Army resident is provided for and able to stay here in our community if they wish to do so.”
Mayor Kirk Watson expressed concern not only about the closure, but also the short notice residents were given.
“I’m disappointed that it’s taken this long for The Salvation Army to live up to the promise they made in January to take care of each and every resident that they’re displacing. I’ve been pushing them every step of the way and sent a letter to Major (Lewis) Reckline yesterday demanding that they fulfill their responsibility,” Watson said. “Last night, Salvation Army asked for help from the City to do so. Austin is home for these residents, and we will take care of our neighbors.”
Council Member Zo Qadri, who represents District 9 where the downtown shelter is located, shares Watson’s disappointment and emphasized the urgency of the current situation.
“Any community should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable residents, and right now, we can do better. I’m disappointed that The Salvation Army didn’t adequately communicate the timeline of this closure to the District 9 constituents who are using this shelter to lift themselves out of unfortunate circumstances,” Qadri said. “The urgency of this crisis is real and the fear and uncertainty it has created is as unfortunate as it was avoidable. Moving forward, our collective priority should be to take care of our neighbors and keep them on a path towards permanent housing.”