DOWNTOWN SHELTER “the ARCH”

Our Shelter Services

The shelter at 7th and Neches downtown, the “ARCH” (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless), is a point to enter into the homeless social service system for many of Austin’s adults experiencing homelessness. The shelter is a place where individuals experiencing homelessness become clients, where clients receive information on how and where to access a wide range of services, and where basic services such as restrooms, showers, lockers, laundry, internet access, and mail pick up are provided daily. The shelter also provides night sleep for adult men who also receive case management to get into housing. More than 4,000 men and women utilized the ARCH last year. Front Steps has been operating the City of Austin’s downtown shelter for more than twenty years!

About the Building

The building opened in 2004, and includes a large common-use room, public showers, public restrooms, storage lockers, laundry facilities, a computer room, and offices for our staff and various nonprofit organizations that provide services to our clients at the ARCH. A clinic, located on the first floor, provides health care and specialized services meeting basic medical needs of our clients. The second floor houses a large commercial kitchen and dining room where nightly meals are served to clients staying at the shelter. On the third floor is the 100-bed shelter with a rooftop terrace opening up to a panoramic view of the city.

Shelter Success: Emmet’s Story

Emmet’s case manager, Nick, describes Emmet as “Easy to get along with, he always wanted to make progress.” That attitude has paid off, and Emmet was one of the 29 clients housed by Front Steps in January 2020.

In his 60s, Emmet had been homeless since the 1990s. He came to Austin over a decade ago, because of a relationship. He had first arrived at the shelter in 2006, accessing Day Services as needed, and he had been sleeping at the shelter since December of 2011. Emmet was one of the shelter clients most impacted by the August 2019 changes at the shelter when, in August of 2019, the service delivery model at the shelter changed and clients who slept here were also required to work with a case worker to create and execute a housing plan. (Prior to this, individuals were encouraged to work with Case Managers, but it wasn’t mandatory.)

Emmet’s case manager started with the basics, getting him a birth certificate and then an ID, a voucher for a vision test and glasses, and connecting Emmet to Goodwill to seek work. Based on Emmet’s work history managing a deli in New Jersey and bartending in California, a food handler’s license was the best choice, and that was achieved in November 2019. The job hunt was slow at first, and when his Case Manager asked Emmet what he might be able to do to improve his job hunt odds, Emmet said, “maybe a haircut?” YES. After decades of homelessness, Emmet’s long gray hair and beard were pretty untamed. The Case Manager got Emmet set up for a free haircut from a local training site for haircutters, and Emmet was on his way! Within a month, he got a job offer at a local grocery store and started work. With his first two week’s paycheck, he was able to afford shared housing (own bed/bath in an apartment with a roommate). Emmet has opened a bank account. Saving some money.

Emmet said if he had not been obligated to do this, to get into case management and create a housing plan, he would NOT have done it. He wished he did it sooner.

Emmet has begun losing weight (working, eating at home, working out in apartment complex gym) and he’s looking ahead to hiking and yoga. He has health insurance from work. Has a phone and pays the bill. He would like to eventually be able to afford an apartment all his own.

Words from our staff on why they work here:


“Every day I am touched by some of our homeless clients attitude. Most of them have been through so much.”

“A couple of months ago, we had an elderly client who was desperately in need of clothing one morning. My last resort is always going to the clients on the 3rd floor and making a general announcement someone is in need of something. I’ve been here for about 9 years now and 10 times out of 10 of the clients have never let me down. It moves me beyond words to see client after client going through their bags saying I have something I can give. These are moments money just can’t buy.”

“Personally, I work here because it gives me an opportunity to give back to the community and provide a helping hand to someone down on their luck. As a collective, it feels GREAT to be part of a team that is making a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. I am inspired by the acts of compassion that I see regularly and the stories of resiliency and perseverance that many of the people we serve represent.”

‘I enjoy working at the Arch because of the experiences I have with the clients and my coworkers. It’s rewarding when we help get into housing and see them move on to better things. I thank you and all other Front Steps staff from top to bottom for everything we do here. Let’s continue doing the work that we love to do.”

“I truly love what I do.”