A double-size Austin Street Center is soon to open in Dallas as part of expanding the puzzle of services and facilities for homeless people.
Around 250 people can be sheltered under COVID-19 restrictions at the existing structure.
The new building has expanded dormitory space to house about 500 men and women each night.
It has expanded medical space in partnership with Texas Health Resources. Homeless people recovering from surgery will have safe quarters at the new building.
The new shelter will have a full commercial kitchen to prepare fresh food for hundreds of people each day, instead of just reheating delivered food.
“The way that we serve meals, the way we deliver services, the way we intake our clients is all going to be better, more efficient. That will allow us to increase the number of people that we serve,” said Teresa Thomas, Austin Street Shelter communication director.
Adjacent to the new building, the old Austin Street Shelter at 2929 Hickory Street was half the size.
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It started as just an overnight shelter, but the mission has expanded to help keep people from returning.
“We want to bring people off the street, get them prepared to either find a job, get them document-ready, get them prepared for what it is to live in an apartment or home again,” said Myrshem George, Austin Street Center's chief advancement officer.
George oversaw the effort to raise $15 million in private donations needed to construct the new building. He said the current fundraising total is about $14.9 million, just under what is needed.
The Dallas and Collin County homeless population is estimated to be more than 4,000 people.
During the early February freeze, around 1,100 homeless people stayed at a temporary shelter set up at Fair Park because there was not enough shelter space elsewhere.
In June 2021, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and other local leaders announced a $70 million plan with government money pooled from Dallas County and several cities to provide permanent supportive housing for 2,600 homeless people within two years.
Permanent housing is the next step from places like the Austin Street Center, but most of the permanent units are not available yet.
“It isn't there yet, but part of this building is to increase our capability for our piece of the puzzle,” Thomas said.
Furnishings are to arrive soon for a planned opening of the new building in June.
All the combined efforts still fall short of housing the total estimated homeless population, but it is a larger effort than ever before in Dallas.