NB Housing Partners’ First Footing program could move into new permanent facility as soon as December
Oct. 3, 2023
Workers are progressing to transform a former fire station into a permanent facility to serve New Braunfels’ homeless population. NB Housing Partners’ First Footing program hopes to move into the new digs, possibly as soon as December.
Since its establishment in February 2021, the First Footing program has been leasing local motel space to provide services to community members at risk for or experiencing homelessness. The program serves an average of about 30 individuals daily. The demand increases to nearly 50 individuals on cold weather nights.
NB Housing Partners moved the First Footing program into a new phase after it entered into a 25-year agreement earlier this year with the City of New Braunfels to lease the former fire station at 4120 Loop 337 for use as a shelter and community resource center.
The agency is investing significant funds in building and property improvements at the site to provide a crisis housing and outreach center containing a comprehensive intake process that helps connect individuals to community resources and housing opportunities. The program site will provide case management, basic needs, meals, medical care, behavioral healthcare, budgeting, employment/job assistance, benefit application assistance, housing navigation and planning, and congregate crisis housing (shelter).
“The building site was first constructed in the 1970s, so we have found there are some things that are really old and need replacing, such as exterior sewer lines, so we are in the process of doing that,” said Kellie Stallings, executive director of NB Housing Partners. “We are preparing the plumbing for additional showers and bathrooms in both buildings. We are now installing windows and doors, completing flooring, adding insulation to the roof and adding fixtures to the walls so that when we get to the end of November, hopefully, we will be ready to move in.”
Stallings said workers are also installing safety and security access items to the building, as well as fire suppression systems.
In addition to providing a safe place to stay and 24-hour staff coverage, the First Footing program offers support services such as identification document recovery, establishing employment and reestablishing benefit income such as retirement, disability, or food assistance, significantly increasing the likelihood that individuals develop and maintain long-term housing. The program also partners with Acacia Medical Mission for physical healthcare services and Hill Country MHDD for behavioral health services.
The facility will also serve as a cold-weather shelter room to protect the safety of individuals during extreme weather conditions.
Under the current motel-based structure, according to Stallings, the program currently accommodates about 34 people. The agency can serve 48 individuals in the new permanent facility. The project’s second phase will provide 25 additional people with shelter on cold weather evenings.
“In the last year, we have met with 508 individuals who are seeking help due to experiencing homelessness,” Stallings said. “Our shelter services are not large enough to serve that many, so expansion of both crisis housing and permanent housing are key to the ongoing health and safety of individuals served and our community. Our role is listening to someone’s story, finding out what their needs are and guiding them to solutions, which may be through our agency, through other community resources or other existing resources that they haven’t been able to navigate themselves, like reconnecting with family and friends or resources in a community where they used to live.”
The program focuses primarily on serving single men and couples, referring youth to Connections Individual and Family Services, and, whenever possible, directing single women and families to the Crisis Center of Comal County and Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels.
But the ultimate goal, Stallings said, is to guide individuals toward the path of permanent housing.
“We know the shelter addresses immediate crisis needs,” she said. “We can’t stop there. The main goal in our community and why NB Housing Partners started to begin with, is to build the housing capacity for all income levels in the community. There are a lot of frontline workers who live paycheck to paycheck. One health issue, family conflict or car breakdown will result in being evicted and experiencing homelessness. As a community, we can do better by ensuring more housing is available for our community neighbors who earn low to moderate incomes.”
The agency has acquired land on Church Hill Road to expand homelessness prevention support and add transitional and permanent housing for individuals or families experiencing housing insecurity. Plans call for building housing units available for people earning up to 200% of the poverty line and renovating a house on the property to allow the agency to serve five to nine individuals.
“Individuals and families will have support services to assist them in maintaining housing with rental rates below market value as they continue credit history improvements or eviction history recovery and build up their savings in order to transition to market value rent in the community,” she said.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to NB Housing Partners and mailed or dropped off at 801 W. San Antonio Street, New Braunfels, TX 78130. Individuals can volunteer for the program through the Serve Spot website at servespot.org. For additional information regarding donations or the program, email email@example.com or call 830-606-9526.