City reaches agreement with Salvation Army for short-term extension at downtown shelter

City to pay up to $100,000 to extend services for remaining clients for up to 30 days
Downtown Salvation Army Shelter
Photo credit Jay Janner / American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

AUSTIN ( -- Five days ahead of its planned closure, the City of Austin says it has reached a short-term agreement with the Salvation Army to extend operations at the organization's homeless shelter in downtown Austin.

Officials with the city's Homeless Strategy Division say the city will fund those operations for a period of up to 30 days, at a cost of up to $100,000 funded by the city - a cost that will be pro-rated if all remaining clients are relocated in less than a month.

On Feb. 17, Salvation Army officials announced the closure of the shelter on March 15, citing the condition of the aging building and increasing operating costs as the primary reasons for its closing.

"Addressing this crisis in such a short period of time has only been possible through the collaboration and creativity of our community partners – over a dozen of whom have stepped forward to offer shelter beds, housing, and other resources," Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said in a statement. "We also appreciate the willingness of The Salvation Army to extend operations to allow for a more thoughtful transition."

Major Lewis Reckline, area commander for the Salvation Army, told members of the City Council's Public Health Committee on Wednesday that 32 clients remained at the shelter, down from nearly 60 earlier in the week.

Reckline also detailed the financial impact that led to the decision to close the shelter - an effort that has been operating at a net annual loss of $3 million for several years. The situation finally became "impossible" to continue, Reckline said, despite the organization's efforts to work with city officials to find a solution to the financial challenges the organization was facing.

"There were a number of meetings with the city," Reckline told committee members Wednesday. "None of those folks are at the table now, so it's hard to speak to that. This has been an ongoing conversation for a very significant period of time."

Reckline indicated the organization plans to sell the property, though no buyer has been identified as of yet.

In a memo to council members Friday, Grey said the city has identified capacity for at least 48 individuals. The relocation efforts will include the city's existing Northbridge and Southbridge shelters, the ARCH, and the Austin Shelter for Women and Children, in addition to other settings.

According to the city, representatives with the city's homeless strategy office and other service providers visited with the remaining clients and case managers at the downtown shelter. Clients were assured that they would be offered a local placement before the shelter closes.

Grey says her department will provide another update to council members in a week, and continuing until all shelter clients have been relocated.

Despite the closure of the downtown shelter, the Salvation Army aims to continue its efforts at its two remaining shelters - the Austin Shelter for Women and Children, and the Rathgeber Center for Families, both located in east Austin. Between the two facilities, the organization provides 300 beds serving families, women, and children experiencing homelessness.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Jay Janner / American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK