The City, with contracted support from Austin Area Urban League, is prepared to activate cold weather shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
The City is monitoring a winter weather event that is expected to impact Austin over the next few days. Temperatures could dip into the teens as soon as this weekend.
The City, with contracted support from Austin Area Urban League, is prepared to activate cold weather shelters for people experiencing homelessness. The response is being supported by a number of City departments including Austin Public Health, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Austin Police Department, Municipal Court, and Parks and Recreation.
COLD WEATHER SHELTER ACTIVATION - CRITERIA
It remains the goal of the Cold Weather Shelter program to provide shelter to anyone seeking a warm place to sleep when temperatures hit a certain determined threshold, and to ensure that anyone requesting shelter is accommodated and not turned away.
Activation is determined by Austin Public Health (APH) no later than 9:00 a.m. each day using National Weather Service (NWS) projections for the Camp Mabry Location. These projections may be accessed by going to the NWS website and entering the 78703 zip: 7-Day Forecast 30.27N 97.74W (weather.gov)
The decision to activate is made by 9:00 a.m. each day to allow the time required to activate and mobilize all the required resources. Camp Mabry has been selected as the official National Weather Service location for assessing temperatures due to its central location and proximity to Downtown, where a significant number of people experiencing homelessness live.
The City is prepared to activate Cold Weather Shelters multiple nights in a row if the thresholds are met. When temperatures do not rise above freezing during the day, the shelters will remain open during that time.
The City will activate Cold Weather Shelters if the forecast is predicted to be:
- 32 degrees or colder overnight
- 35 degrees, with rain/wet
- 35 degrees, with wind chill of 32 or colder
NOTIFICATION TO ACTIVATE
- Cold Weather Shelter Hotline updated to indicate activation - 512-305-ICEE (4233)
- APH sends an email to a community communication portal and other organizations involved in outreach and information to unsheltered individuals.
- HSEM sends a text to phone numbers registered on the alert system.
HOW PEOPLE CAN ACCESS A COLD WEATHER SHELTER
While Cold Weather Shelters are primarily accessed by people experiencing homelessness, they are available to anyone in need of a warm place to spend the night.
- Individuals can get information about access and activation by calling the Cold Weather Shelter Hotline - 512-305-ICEE (4233).
- Registration for shelter takes place between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. at One Texas Center (OTC), 505 Barton Springs Road, which acts as a central embarkation point.
- CapMetro transports individuals from the OTC to a Cold Weather Shelter.
- In the morning, CapMetro buses transport individuals leaving the Cold Weather Shelters to the downtown area.
GUIDANCE FOR COLD WEATHER SHELTER GUESTS
- On nights when a Cold Weather Shelter is activated, CapMetro will not require any fee/ticket for anyone that tells a driver they are going to a Cold Weather Shelter.
- People can bring their belongings, as long as they can transport them to the OTC and on to a CapMetro Bus.
- Pets are allowed, if they are not aggressive, able to be around others, have a leash, and can sleep with owner. If a pet needs a crate for the evening, at the Cold Weather Shelter, individuals should let staff know at the OTC when registering.
- Meals will be provided at the Cold Weather Shelter
- Women/Couples will be able to be at the same Cold Weather Shelter, but in a separate area, as capacity allows.
During regular business hours (generally 8am to 5pm), Austinites can utilize facilities such as public libraries and recreation centers to warm up.
In the case of a more widespread winter weather emergency, where there are extensive power outages or basic Cold Weather Shelter capacity is exhausted, the City’s Emergency Disaster Shelters would be activated.
BACKGROUND TO COLD WEATHER SHELTER PROVISION
Following the arrival of COVID-19, Austin’s network of community-operated Cold Weather Shelters for people experiencing homelessness was disrupted and no longer able to provide the support it had in previous years. The City responded by adapting to fill in the gaps, leaning on City facilities and employees to provide the necessary support for our unhoused population.
Even so, during the cold weather events of almost a year ago, the City successfully sheltered more than 2,000 people over 17 nights.
As part of a plan to address some of the challenges recently highlighted by the Auditor, the FY23 budget included new funding to contract with a third-party provider for regular Cold Weather Shelter activities. This winter, following Council’s recent approval of a contract with the Austin Area Urban League (AAUL) to provide shelter operations during cold weather activation periods, AAUL will support City of Austin Cold Weather Shelter activities, with a plan to assume full responsibility during the 2023/2024 winter season. In the meantime, the City has updated its plans to make clear when shelters will be activated.