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One of the largest shelters in Dallas is about to get an expansion

Austin Street Center's new 60,000-square-foot expansion will open next month. The $15 million facility is more than just a temporary place to sleep.

DALLAS — It was the second chance that saved Autry Manuel’s life.  

“I used to pray to God to just take me away,” Manuel said. 

Several years ago, drug addiction took away just about everything from Manuel: her job, her family and her home. It all started with a doctor’s prescription of Xanax, and it took years to overcome.   

“I literally slept on the sidewalk around the corner,” Manuel said as she pointed toward the corner of Jeffries St. in South Dallas.  

Just steps away is the center that would change her life. 

Manuel sought help from Austin Street Center, one of the largest homeless shelters in Dallas. 

It was the beginning of her path to a better life. Manuel, who has been a client at the shelter over the last two months, is undergoing a program that will help her secure permanent housing.  

“That’s what they’re helping me do, just try to get myself back,” Manuel said.  

Now, the nonprofit is getting ready to help even more people off the streets. 

Next month, it’ll open a new $15 million dollar, 60,000-square-foot extension. The new building, which is privately-funded, is several years in the making.  

Teresa Thomas, Austin Street Center’s director of communications, said they saw a rise in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the ability to help clients became difficult. Before the pandemic, the nonprofit served around 400 clients, but with social distancing requirements, it had to cut the number of clients served to 250.  

With the new extension, the nonprofit will be able to serve nearly 500 clients, double the amount of people they’ve served since the pandemic.  

“We absolutely need more space and not just Austin Street Center, Dallas, as a community, needs more space and needs more services to help our homeless neighbors,” Thomas said.   

The extension will not only give people a place to stay, but help them achieve lifelong success through job training, counseling and healthcare needs. The new facility houses the nonprofit’s first kitchen, several classrooms and meeting rooms for healthcare needs. 

“We’re trying to get at the root issues of homelessness to help people permanently get off the streets,” Thomas said. 

Data from Austin Street Center found that in 2021, more than 23% of the shelter's 1,489 clients were placed in permanent housing.  

That’s the goal for Manuel, who is two months into the nonprofit’s rapid housing program. Her goal is to go back to school and earn a bachelor’s degree.  

“Everything I’ve gone through, I finally did something to make my mother proud,” Manuel said. 

Her mother is no longer alive, but now, Manuel can feel proud of herself for the first time. 

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