A new shelter for women, children and families is a step closer to opening following pledges of financial support from the City of Austin, the Downtown Austin Alliance and local philanthropist Dick Rathgeber.
The newly-built Salvation Army Rathgeber Center at 4613 Tannehill Lane, East Austin, contains 212 beds and once opened – expected this fall – will be a safe-haven for families experiencing homelessness in our community.
The Center has been designed to provide emergency shelter, meals, clothing, basic needs, case management, connection to housing resources, employment services, child care, child and family therapy, and assistance with life skills.
The City’s proposed fiscal year 2019-20 Budget includes $1 million in one-time funding towards providing services at the Rathgeber Center and an additional $500,000 for the expansion of homeless services at the Salvation Army’s downtown shelter. This is part of an unprecedented $63 million investment in services related to homelessness proposed for 2019-20. Council will begin the process of adopting its Budget tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Additional funds are needed to keep the Rathgeber Center fully operational in subsequent years. Rathgeber has pledged to gift $100,000 of his own money if the Austin community can help raise an extra $400,000 towards the Center’s $4.9 million annual operations budget. The Downtown Alliance has pledged to contribute $100,000 and assist in efforts to raise additional funds from private donors through its Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation.
Earlier today, Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk joined Mayor Steve Adler, Council Member Kathie Tovo, Dick Rathgeber, and representatives from the Salvation Army and Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation at an event to launch the new fundraising drive.
"Addressing homelessness is a top priority for the City of Austin," said City Manager Spencer Cronk. "That’s why we’ve proposed an unprecedented $63 million in Citywide spending for homelessness-related services for the next fiscal year. But we can’t do it alone. Alongside our pledge to the Rathgeber Center, this fundraising challenge calls upon the community to help those experiencing homelessness."
"The Rathgeber Center will provide families who are experiencing homelessness with a safe place to stay and a path to permanent housing and will make available more shelter beds Downtown for individuals," said Council Member Kathie Tovo. "I’m thrilled that the City of Austin, the Downtown Austin Alliance, and the Rathgebers have come forward to help the Salvation Army get closer to its goal of operating its Family Center at 100% capacity, and I challenge the community to join us."
"We can end homelessness in Austin if we pull together as a community and direct the change we want to see," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. "What we do now will determine our city’s future. This is the moment to act."
Introducing new capacity for families with children at the Rathgeber Center, while moving families out of the downtown Salvation Army shelter on 8th and Neches Street, will open up beds for adults no longer staying at the ARCH. This coordinated shifting of services should transition individuals and families out of homelessness and into stable housing more quickly and effectively.
The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition’s (ECHO) most recent point-in-time count revealed a 25% year-over-year reduction in youth homelessness and a 15% reduction in veteran homelessness. However, the count also showed a clear and troubling uptrend in the number of people experiencing homelessness over the past five years.
The City Council has given consistent direction to City management and staff that reversing this trend and ending homelessness in Austin must be a top City priority. In support of this goal, the fiscal year 2019-20 Budget represents an historic leap forward in the City’s response to our homelessness crisis, with the planned expenditures totaling $62.7 million representing an increase of $17 million from fiscal year 2018-19 levels.