Homeless people living in the streets is a topic that has finally worked its way to the forefront of the conversation, in Austin, throughout the state of Texas, and elsewhere across the entire country. Affordable housing is extremely hard to find and is only part of the underlying problem.
At Relief Enterprise we have heard from many community members, especially after the recent passage of Prop B to reinstate the camping ban, who are concerned about our contract with the City of Austin for cleaning the underpasses throughout the city. The underpasses have become an unfortunate home for many people who do not have other places they can safely go, and we understand your concerns. Please know that our goal is to clean these areas according to our contract, not to enforce the camping ban or to separate people from their belongings.
Experts say three ways Texans can help their homeless neighbors are to focus one at a time on issues that a homeless person is experiencing, to challenge perspectives that stigmatize homelessness, and to reach out to local organizations to see what help they need. Relief Enterprise’s mission is to help the less fortunate with job opportunities, regardless of their living conditions. Having meaningful work restores dignity and provides a means to pay for housing and living expenses. All of our federal, state and local contracts are fulfilled by disabled and underprivileged persons, helping this vulnerable population become contributing members of today’s society.
Locally, organizations such as Mobile Loaves and Fishes with their Community First Village and Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) are helping connect the homeless with housing needs, while NAMI Austin (National Alliance on Mental Health) and Austin Public Health Integral Care are working to help people work through mental health issues. On the state level, Texas provides grants for non-profits and governmental agencies to provide programs for the homeless, such as counseling services, family stability, food pantries, parenting, emergency services, and shelters. On the national stage, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has committed to allocating $5B to fight homelessness.
There are many organizations in the Central Texas area that would appreciate your support as the community works to end homelessness. Although donations are appreciated, traditional approaches to helping people experiencing homelessness, such as organizing soup kitchens or donating clothing, are less likely to help solve “chronic homelessness” because they treat the symptom and not the underlying problem.
We can all be part of the solution by providing financial support or volunteering to help with community programs that are already focused on the homelessness issue. Here is a partial list of organizations that would be happy to receive your support:
- Austin Public Health Homeless Assistance – As part of the Homeless Assistance System, the City of Austin collaborates with agencies, community organizations, and individuals working to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring. Access information about the City policies, strategies and programs that prioritize ending homelessness. Learn about the many organizations at work in the Homeless Assistance System and track progress through the Austin Homelessness Dashboard. Join the effort by getting involved with the programs and community organizations making a difference in our community.
- Austin Homelessness Advisory Committee (AHAC) – The AHAC is part of Austin’s efforts to improve coordination across the city to combat homelessness, by getting individuals who have experienced homelessness to contribute to policymaking, give feedback on services and resources, and assist in the design of materials and outreach for the homeless.
- Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) – The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) is the lead agency that plans and implements community-wide strategies to end homelessness in Austin and Travis County.
- Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) – Front Steps runs the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless/ARCH and offers a continuum of services that help people transition from homelessness into housing.
- The Other Ones Foundation – The Other Ones Foundation is a nonprofit that offers extremely low-barrier work opportunities, case management, and humanitarian aid to people experiencing homelessness in Austin, TX.
- Mobile Loaves and Fishes / Community First Village – Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) serves its homeless neighbors through three core programs: Truck Ministry, Community First! Village and Community Works.
- Caritas of Austin – Caritas of Austin provides stable housing, food, education classes, job services and veterans assistance.
- Salvation Army – The Salvation Army is the largest provider of emergency shelter in Central Texas, serving men, women, and children with shelter, addiction rehabilitation, clothing, meals, holiday support, and direct client assistance.
- SAFE Alliance – The SAFE Alliance supports survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence.