Making a Difference, One Haircut at a Time

For individuals experiencing homelessness, getting a professional haircut is not a priority, and most often not a possibility.

“Haircuts for the Homeless,” a monthly event at Austin Street Center, is a collaborative partnership with The Gents Place, a prestigious men’s hair salon, and Sincerely You, an independent nonprofit which advocates for equal rights and treatment for people experiencing homelessness.

Such a small gesture as a haircut makes a huge impact on Austin Street Center’s clients, further boosting self-esteem and hope for a better life in a world where they often feel invisible.

“Since I’ve been homeless, some people look at me different, but I want to leave the impression that I’m still a good person, capable of being everything I was before,” said Clay after a recent haircut.

In just a little over a year, this event has provided more than 1,000 haircuts and shaves with 100% client satisfaction.

“What I love about this monthly event is that it is the community coming in and circling around our clients and giving them more than a haircut,” said Dustin Perkins, Director of Client Services at Austin Street Center. “The volunteers are also giving a smile, warmth, dignity, love, kindness, and acceptance without judgment.”

 

Summer Heat Impact on Homelessness

Homelessness is challenging in every season! Frigid winter nights always spark concern over the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness; however, long days of summer are more dangerous.

The National Weather Service reports that severe heat is the number one deadliest form of extreme weather, killing over two times as many Americans as almost any other extreme weather event, and almost five times as many Americans as extreme cold. When people are exposed for prolonged periods, heat can have less lethal but still serious effects, such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, skin burns, dehydration, and hallucinations.

“Most of us know how oppressive the Texas sun is at this time of year, covering us in sweat in the brief moments it takes to get to our air-conditioned car from our air-conditioned office,” said Dustin Perkins, Director of Client Services at Austin Street Center.  “It’s so hot that you could literally bake cookies on your car’s dashboard!”

In addition to facing the uncertainty and stigma of homelessness, many clients also experience compounding effects of mental illness, substance abuse, or physical health complications.  All these factors  combined with excessive heat makes life more challenging, with the disturbance in clients’ mood as one of the most common visible side effects.  Violent incidents and threats between clients tend to increase in the summer months,  which is why Austin Street Center includes extreme heat in our inclement weather policies.

“We provide ice-cold water to anyone on the streets surrounding the shelter when the air temperature exceeds 90 degrees, and we open our doors early when the air temperature reaches 97 degrees or the heat index reaches 105 degrees,” said Robert Monroe, Director of Security at Austin Street Center. “Austin Street Center is the only shelter in Dallas that adjusts intake times for the summer heat.”

The summer heat also takes a toll on Austin Street Center’s operational resources, from increased utilities to a need for additional meals if an earlier intake occurs before lunch.

“While we always need bottled water, we also need blankets since we keep it nice and cool in the shelter for the clients,” said  Sharmeene Hayes, Director of Operations at Austin Street Center.

Norm Hitzges to Be Honored with Distinguished Service Award at Austin Street Center’s 35th Anniversary Humble Beginnings Luncheon, Host Committee Announced

This is the first Distinguished Service Award to be awarded for service to those experiencing homelessness in Dallas.
Dallas – March 19, 2019 – Austin Street Center, an organization providing safe shelter and basic needs to help the most vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness, announces its inaugural Norm Hitzges Distinguished Service Award.  Hitzges will receive this first award on May 2 at Austin Street Center’s 35th anniversary Humble Beginnings Luncheon.

The Norm Hitzges Distinguished Service Award is named in Hitzges’ honor for his excellence and dedication to help individuals experiencing homelessness.

Hitzges has been a longtime supporter and friend to Austin Street Center, hosting his annual events ‘Night with Norm’ and the ‘Norm-a-Thon’, raising millions of dollars for Austin Street Center.

Future awards will honor individuals who exemplify servant leadership through their time and talents serving Austin Street Center and who work to further its mission to help the men and women of Dallas experiencing homelessness.

“It was no question that we honor our longstanding supporter and friend Norm Hitzges with our inaugural Distinguished Service Award,” said Daniel Roby, executive director, Austin Street Center. “Norm brought a new voice to sports broadcasting around the same time Austin Street Center opened its doors and because of Norm’s support and vision, we have been able to help thousands of individuals.”

Hitzges hosted the first full time sports talk show in morning drive time in the country in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market more than 30 years ago. He has been on air continuously since that time. Hitzges is known for his enthusiasm and knowledge of sports trivia and his penchant for handicapping all sports. Hitzges has been honored by the Texas Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the Dallas All of Sports Association and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.

Austin Street Center’s 35th anniversary Humble Beginnings Luncheon will take place on May 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Omni Dallas Hotel and feature keynote speaker, Bob Goff, the two time New York Times best-selling author.

Nancy Ann and Ray Hunt will serve as 35th Anniversary honorary chairs, with Gina Landry and Keana Meyer serving as luncheon co-chairs.

Luncheon host committee members are Kenneth Z. Altshuler, Robin and Norm Bagwell, Nell O. Beck, Nancy K. and Randy Best, Megan and John Burkhart, Beth Ewing, Kathy Fielder, Joe Flores, Susan Glassmoyer, Catherine and Dennis Grindinger, Mary Beth Johnston, Jina Kaiser, Rebekah Hamilton Kay, Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Susan and Jeff Lindsey, Lottye and Bobby Lyle, Pennie Marshall, Jay McAuley, Frank Mihalopoulous, Carolyn and David Miller, Jenny Montgomery, Claire Moore, Meredith and Mark Plunkett, Julie Rado, Julie Rogers, David Rosenberg, Ashley Rutledge, Pat and Pete Schenkel, Shelly Slater, Gail and R. Gerald Turner, and Kathy Vassallo.

Austin Street Center is one of Dallas’ largest emergency shelters for people who experience homelessness, serving more than 400 people every day. Austin Street Center serves men over the age of 45 and adult women and has grown from providing life-sustaining services such as food and shelter, to ending people’s homelessness through permanent housing coordination, mental health support, relational mediation and employment services.

For more information on event sponsorship opportunities or to purchase tickets, please visit www.austinstreet.org/humblebeginnings.

About Austin Street Center

Founded in 1983, Austin Street Center is a non-profit organization based in Dallas providing safe shelter and basic needs to help individuals find a permanent place to call home. Located in Dallas, Austin Street Center serves men, ages 45 and older, and women, ages 18 and older, with the individual support they need to transition out of homelessness, including shelter, food, clothing, health and mental health services, spiritual support, employment and education programs. Austin Street Center provides unconditional support for each person regardless of faith, sexuality, or circumstance, and develops innovative solutions for housing – working outside the traditional approach to homelessness. For more information, visit https://www.austinstreet.org.