The Downtown Alliance Safety & Hospitality Committee held its December meeting at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) to tour the facility and learn about recent improvements that have led to positive changes inside and outside the facility.
ARCH is a city-owned facility located at 500 E. 7th Street that opened in April 2004. It is operated by a private nonprofit through a contract managed by Austin Public Health. In August, the city cut ties with the entity that operated ARCH since 2004 and began a transition that led to Urban Alchemy taking over the management contract on October 1. Over the two months since the transition, a remarkable transformation has taken place.
ARCH is quiet, peaceful, and clean inside. Interior spaces have been converted from office and storage areas to dormitories for nighttime workers, respite care and spaces for service provision. In prior years, as many as 220 men slept at ARCH, with many on floor mats. Today, the 100 built-in bunk beds and 35 cots that have replaced mat sleeping are full every night, and there are 127 people on a waiting list to get into the shelter. Urban Alchemy sheltered and housed more people in its first-month managing ARCH than the prior operator had in the entire first quarter of FY 21-22.
For people who frequent downtown, the most noticeable changes are those outside the ARCH. No longer are people sitting, lying, camping or loitering on the sidewalks near the building. The area is maintained, and pressure washed regularly to ensure it remains clean and free of litter and debris. Urban Alchemy brightened the entry area with plants, fresh paint and colorful columns to make the facility more welcoming.
The Downtown Alliance applauds Urban Alchemy for the progress they’ve made over the past two months. Our staff and committee members will be involved in forthcoming processes to reimagine the future of ARCH and social service delivery downtown and the possible redesign of this area.
Written by Bill Brice, VP of Investor Relations