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.

Volunteer Spotlight on Leah Lucas

Austin Street Center is blessed to have hundreds of amazing volunteers who come together to serve men and women experiencing homelessness. We wanted to know more about them, so we’re introducing a series of Volunteer Spotlights. First up: Leah Lucas, a college student who wanted to spend her summer giving back to the community.

How long have you volunteered at Austin Street Center?
I started volunteering at ASC in June 2017.

How did you first get involved with ASC?
I knew I wanted to spend my summer home from school volunteering with a homeless ministry/non-profit. After doing some research I decided on ASC.

What was your first impression of ASC?
My first impression was that ASC really cares about the homeless. They want to do all they can to help this population.

What do you wish more people knew about homelessness?
I wish more people knew that people who are homeless don’t all fit the stereotypes that people assume about the homeless. The stereotype that homeless people made a bad decision, which caused them to be homeless is not true of every person. Sometimes life happens, they can’t afford rent, or the have medical issues that end up causing them to be homeless. Homeless people are just like you and me.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?
I think volunteering is a great way to give back. That was my main goal of volunteering was to give back, but something I learned was that I gain so much more than I give. Even if you just volunteer once a month, it’s a great way to give back to the community!

Tell us an interesting story from your time at ASC.
There are so many stories and friendships that I have gained from volunteering that it’s so hard to choose! One of my favorite moments that happened was on my second day of volunteering. I was working the front desk and ended up being the only one working. I was still learning everything, so I was a little overwhelmed. I had a client come up and ask if she could pray for me. Here I was supposed to be helping them, but she helped me remember why I was there!

What has been the most challenging part of volunteering at ASC?
One of the most challenging things that I have experienced is answering some of the calls ASC gets. Sometimes you get calls of people seeking shelter and they are sharing their whole story over the phone with you. It’s hard when they don’t meet the age limit or have children so ASC isn’t the best fit for them. After hearing their story you want to do everything to help them, but over the phone all you can really do is give them some other resources in the area.

Something that is hard personally is that you become attached to the clients. When they get housing and leave the shelter it’s sad not seeing them every day. But then you remember that they are no longer in the shelter, which is so great, which makes me so happy!

What has surprised you most about working with people experiencing homelessness?These people really are like you and me. You pass these people on the street and you think you are different than they are, but you’re not.

How has volunteering at ASC changed your views about homelessness?
Volunteering gave me an opportunity to put myself in their shoes. ASC made me realize the need for shelters and how much they help the homeless community!

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am a Ministry student at Hardin Simmons University. I volunteered this summer while I was home, and plan on volunteering when I come home during the holidays!

Do you want to get involved? Join us for Austin Street 101 on September 16 at 9am!