Austin Street Center
- What do you see as one or two of the greatest challenges to helping the homeless and the hungry in North Texas?
- Women make up 42 percent of homeless population but only 30 percent of shelter capacity is reserved for them. We need to expand women’s shelter resources in Dallas.
- More people are staying homeless longer, and they are getting older. Largest demographic of homeless adults are quickly approaching their 60s and often have medical conditions of someone approaching their 70s. This means that we need housing and funding models that address the medical and mental health needs of chronically homeless individuals of this age. These individuals are less likely to transition to typical employment opportunities and need expensive programing to support their daily living.
- How would you describe your mission, and how are you specifically helping the homeless and the hungry?
- Austin Street Center is tasked with providing safe shelter and meeting the basic needs of the most vulnerable homeless in Dallas. This means that our role in the homeless system is to provide accessible shelter and food for over 400 individuals which makes up over one-third of the emergency shelter capacity in Dallas, and over 12 percent of all homeless individuals in Dallas.
- Our services are more than just a meal and a bed. It is after homeless individuals feel safe and secure that they can begin imagining something different for their lives. Our services are providing hope and an environment of supported growth.
- Can you give us an example of a person (named or unnamed) who has benefited from your services? How have they benefited? If it’s appropriate, tell us a short story.
When Susan first arrived at Austin Street Center she said, “I was destitute. I felt alone and helpless. There’s a death of a body coming from lack of food and I had that.” Her eyesight was deteriorating. “I couldn’t see to do anything. I couldn’t even see to go get my food” when it was served.
Others at Austin Street helped her, and the Case Managers “did everything, making sure I got food and got showers and whatever I needed.” A victim of identity theft, she was not able to recover her identity on her own. Susan praises the Case Managers at Austin Street Center who worked diligently to get her Social Security number again. “They had to work and work on it to get things straight. I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
She adds that, “I think I would have died if it weren’t for Austin Street.” Not only did she have physical issues, but had lost hope. “It’s far worse to have a death of the spirit than a death of the body.”
Observing that Susan’s eyesight was deteriorating, her Case Managers arranged to have her vision tested and she was diagnosed with advanced cataracts. Surgery on her right eye “changed everything! I can see!”
She will soon be scheduled for surgery on her other eye and is feeling positive about it. In fact, she now feels hope about other aspects of her life as well and looks forward to the future. Now that she has recovered her identity, she will soon be able to apply for Social Security. She’s excited about the income and hopes to supplement it with part-time work as a cake decorator. After her surgery, her Case Managers will continue to work with her and will assist Susan in selecting the appropriate housing for her when she is ready to leave Austin Street Center.
- Is there anything new that you are focused on for the coming year? Any new initiatives?
Austin Street Center is excited to announce the opening of increased services for our most vulnerable women. Our women’s program will include increased shelter capacity for 15 women in a newly refurbished dorm room, and most importantly daytime programming which will include music and art classes, mental health support groups, and an array of services to address their unique needs.
- What else should North Texas residents know about your work?
Austin Street Center serves individuals experiencing homelessness, but the causes of homelessness are as varied as the individuals who find shelter here. We assist our clients in overcoming issues related to substance abuse, mental health, sexual exploitation, developmental disabilities, medical challenges, and domestic violence, to name a few.
Thanks to the expertise of our case management staff and our amazing community partners, we are able to help our clients to overcome the challenges which brought them here. We would welcome anyone who has a passion for the work that we do to come down to Austin Street and get involved. It is only because of the support of our generous Dallas community that we are ready and able to serve anyone who comes to our door.