Homelessness Has Many Faces

There are as many reasons for homelessness as there are people who experience it. No two people are the same. The men and women who come to Austin Street are often in the most difficult season they have ever experienced. Because of this, the Austin Street team is committed to working with each individual by addressing their unique needs.

Jane* stayed at Austin Street for several difficult months—she had a serious drinking problem and was hard to work with, experiencing frequent bouts of anger. Several months passed without a word until one day, the phone rang. Jane called with amazing news: She had just moved in to her own apartment, and was 5 months sober! She called to say thank you for pushing her in the direction she needed to go… the direction that led to her life being completely transformed.

Chuck* has multiple, complicated health issues, including a mental health diagnosis. He had been estranged from his family for years. Through creative problem solving, Chuck’s case manager located one of his brothers, and facilitated a reunion. Chuck is now living with family, in the environment he needs to restore his health.

Patrick* was eager to help however he could—a hard worker, he wanted to volunteer his skills in the shelter while he prepared for employment through Austin Street’s E2 (Education and Employment) program. With the resume, clothing, and preparation he needed, Patrick landed an interview and was offered a job in a hotel with G6 Hospitality, one of Austin Street’s employment partners. Within a month he was able to move into an apartment of his own.

This is just a sample of the many stories heard daily from the men and women we serve. Men and women who end their homeless experience with the support they receive during their time in the shelter.

Ready to learn more about how you can help? Join us at Austin Street 101 on September 8!

217 People Housed in 90 Days

Austin Street Center was excited to participate in Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance’s “90 in 90 Emergency Shelter Challenge,” alongside The Bridge and The Salvation Army. What began as an effort to find homes for 90 men and women experiencing homelessness turned into so much more.

In total, 217 men and women are no longer homeless! Of these 107 were helped by the team at Austin Street.

Through innovative approaches, Austin Street’s team of case managers led the charge by working individually with each person to determine what barriers were keeping them from finding a place to call home.

Here are just a few of the ways our team found innovative solutions:

A history of incarceration? By developing relationships with apartment managers, Austin Street was able to find homes for people who would otherwise have been rejected immediately.

Not enough income to afford rent? Through a series of Roommate Matching events, individuals were paired up to pool resources and find apartments they could afford together.

Missing critical documents? Along with our community partners, Austin Street’s case management staff works hard to help our guests get birth certificates, state IDs, and other important documentation.

Dustin Perkins, Austin Street’s Director of Programs said, “Our case management team worked their fingers to the bone and wholeheartedly embraced multiple innovative upgrades to our current services, doing things no other emergency shelter in Dallas has ever done before. We are thrilled with the result – 107 people who are no longer homeless, permanently! We learned some incredible lessons about what works to end our clients’ homelessness and what it takes to continuously improve. I’m thankful for this amazing case management team who applied their big hearts and big brains through big effort to achieve big results!  I’m humbled to work with these incredible people.”

The entire Austin Street staff feels passionate about helping our clients get home. Everyone participated in the challenge; from developing messages displayed throughout the shelter to making sure to ask guests what their housing plan was at every opportunity, each team member from security to operations and fundraising worked to make this possible.

As our team integrates the lessons learned from this challenge, we remain committed to ensuring that every person we serve is working toward ending their homeless experience as quickly as possible

To learn more: see MDHA’s blog post here and the Dallas Morning News’ editorial here.

Common Myths about Homelessness

myth #1: Homeless people are lazy and don’t want to work

About 25 percent of homeless people around the country are employed, with between 40 to 60 percent of the homeless population having some form of full or part time employment in the last month according to the Urban Institute. Austin Street Center has approximately 40 beds reserved for folks who are working.

Myth #2: Getting a minimum wage job will by itself keep someone out of homelessness.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition found a full-time minimum wage worker would have to work between 69 and 174 hours a week, depending on the state, to pay for an “affordable” two-bedroom rental unit (defining affordable as 30 percent of a person’s income). A full-time minimum wage worker couldn’t afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent, in any state. Austin Street Center, through a series of roommate matching events, has found success in being able to group folks together to pool their resources and share rent. However, due to specific employment, health, and other personal needs this is not always a viable option.

Myth #3: Homelessness is always a long-term problem.

The most common duration of homelessness is one or two days, according to University of Pennsylvania researcher Dennis Culhane. Nearly one in six homeless people were classified as chronically homeless — people with disabilities who have been homeless for a year or more, or experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in three years — by HUD’s survey.

The longer people are homeless, the longer they are likely to stay homeless, which is why it is important to get folks transitioned out of shelters and into an appropriate and permanent living situation as quickly as possible. Austin Street Center’s diversion program helps keep people from becoming homeless in the first place by assessing every new client for alternative living arrangements.

Myth #4: Homelessness is always related to mental illness.

In fact, many people begin to struggle with mental health or experience increased symptoms AFTER they become homeless. Serious mental illnesses are more prevalent among the homeless: about one in four sheltered homeless people suffered from a severe mental illness in 2010, compared to 5 percent of US adults, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). About 44% of Austin Street Clients say they struggle with mental health, but lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and poverty are the top three causes of homelessness (according to a 2014 survey from the US Conference of Mayors).

Myth #5: Most homeless people are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Roughly one-third of sheltered homeless adults had chronic substance use issues in 2010, according to the SAMHSA. Certainly, addiction and homelessness intersect—but they are not the same issue and should be treated independently of one another. Not every addict is without a home, and not every homeless person is in need of addiction treatment.

Myth #6: Homelessness is only a problem in big cities.

Nearly 46% of homeless people lived in a major city in 2014, according to HUD’s survey. The rest lived in smaller cities, suburbs, or rural areas. Homelessness is something that every community faces. The answer is not to send folks elsewhere, but to create solutions everywhere.

Myth #7: Homeless people live in the streets.

About 69% of homeless Americans lived in shelters in 2014, according to HUD’s survey – Dallas is similar with about 1,300 on the streets and about 3,000 in shelter or transitional housing according to the 2018 Point in Time count. At least 30% of unsheltered homeless in Seattle residents live in vehicles, according to the Vehicle Residency Research Program. Truth is, the people you see on the streets represent a minority of those experiencing homelessness.

Myth # 8: People choose homelessness as a desired lifestyle.

In fact, based on a 2018 survey in Seattle, 98% said that they would move into safe and affordable housing if available. There are rare cases of personal choice favoring a homeless lifestyle – evading work and responsibility – but this is far from the norm.

Myth #9: All homeless people are older and single.

One in three homeless people were aged 24 and younger in 2014, and 37% were part of a family unit experiencing homelessness, HUD’s survey found. You may not find them under overpasses, but one in forty-five US children experiences homelessness each year, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

Myth #10: Fighting homelessness is expensive.

Once, Austin Street Center helped end homelessness by purchasing some hearing aids, which then made it possible for the gentleman to find work and self-resolve his homelessness. Another time, ASC purchased a bus ticket for less than $100 to enable an individual to move in with family. Leaving folks homeless costs law enforcement, jails, hospitals, and other community services $31,000-$40,000 per person per year. It is much less expensive to find solutions than let it continue.

Want to help? Support Austin Street Center by making a gift here.