Spiritual Support for the Most Vulnerable

Austin Street Center understands that beyond their basic needs, our guests are often deeply in need of spiritual support and guidance.

Through the generosity of two of our steadfast donors, Austin Street now has a full-time chaplain to meet the needs of our guests who seek spiritual refuge.. Felecia Burns is an ordained AME minister who previously volunteered to lead services in the Austin Street chapel.

Felecia became more aware of the difficulties in fighting homelessness last year when she was profiled by Verify on WFAA. She wanted to understand why there was a homeless encampment near her home. This question led her to the camp to talk to the folks living there and to City Hall to meet with her councilperson,, for insight on just how big and pervasive the problem is.

“I was able to see what this population had to deal with on a daily basis,” Felecia recalls.“I felt like God wanted me to be able to go deeper.”

Now, Felecia’s days are filled with offering hope, organizing prayer and Bible study meetings, and managing the volunteers who provide chapel services each week. She also encourages guests to lead songs, prayers, or share testimonies.

Her role as chaplain is to encourage and remind our guests that they are deeply loved by a God who knows them.

“One of the biggest problems facing people experiencing homelessness is a lack of community, a lack of deep relationships. If I can help facilitate people growing in their faith together, that’s a major step in helping restore what has been lost to the streets,” says Felecia.

In a recent prayer service held in our chapel, Felecia reminded the congregation, “in heaven there is no homelessness, in heaven there is no poverty, and in heaven there is no suffering.” A vision we can all support.

Watch Felecia’s journey to understanding the homeless problem.

From Hungry and Homeless to Housed

Dennis knows what it is to be hungry and homeless. He lived next to a dumpster for seven years before finding his way to Austin Street Center. Overwhelmed by most people and places, he carved out a little spot for himself away from the world and depended on scraps and handouts to survive.

As the holidays approach and we think about gathering with family and friends, let’s take a moment to learn more about hunger and homelessness in our community—and what you can do to help.

The 2017 Point in Time Count revealed that there are 3,789 homeless men, women, and children in Dallas County, their average age is 53 years. Austin Street Center is the only shelter in Dallas focusing on this older population.

Hunger and homelessness go hand in hand, which is why each year the week prior to Thanksgiving is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. This week sheds light on those who are going without the basics of food and shelter.

Austin Street Center’s mission is to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness by providing safe shelter, meals, clothing, and more. Each year, we shelter more than 2,700 individuals and serve more than 250,000 meals. By providing these basic needs, we create a safe environment for men and women to begin to restore their lives. Men like Dennis. After Dennis became acclimated to Austin Street, he worked with a case manager to get him into his own apartment—where he is living now!

How can you help?

VOLUNTEER: Join our incredible team of volunteers who help with everything from meal service to daily intake to sorting and distributing clothing and hygiene items. Group and individual opportunities are available. More information and volunteer application available here.

GIVE: Our ability to respond to needs in our community relies on support from individuals like you. Help keep Austin Street running by contributing financially here.

DONATE: Organize a clothing drive! We are always in need of gently used men’s and women’s jeans, warm winter clothing and shoes, and new socks and underwear. Keep up with our current needs here.

ADVOCATE: This holiday season, consider sharing what you’ve learned with your friends and family and get them involved. Awareness is the first step to making a change. Be sure to like us on Facebook for the latest, and encourage your community to subscribe to our newsletter.

Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors—by ensuring they have what they need to begin the journey of ending their homeless experience.

Austin Street Center’s Response to Hurricane Harvey

Austin Street Center, which has provided safe shelter for the homeless since 1983, is impacted with a unique challenge as thousands of Hurricane Harvey evacuees are arriving in Dallas. Austin Street is coordinating with the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management to offer assistance. Six local mental health organizations have asked Austin Street for flexibility with service times, as well as to be on call to address emergency mental health and substance abuse treatment needs in evacuation shelters. In addition, Austin Street has created new intake processes to ensure we accurately record an evacuee. 

 After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, emergency shelters like Austin Street continued to work with displaced victims for almost a decade. At that time, I worked in an emergency shelter 3,000 miles away from where Katrina hit, and that shelter was still serving victims seven years later. 

As mentioned by “D Magazine” and “The Dallas Morning News,”  Dallas homeless service organizations will serve Hurricane Harvey victims for years, as impoverished evacuees are at a greater risk for becoming homeless after temporary shelters close.  In addition to supporting disaster relief organizations on the front lines, please remember the many other organizations that will continue to serve the victims for years to come.