image via KVUE.com
For many Austinites making the decision about how to vote on Prop B last week was gut wrenching. But one thing was clear to us all: the current protocol (or lack thereof) for those experiencing homelessness in our hometown was not working.
Whether you voted for, against, or just couldn't bring yourself to make a decision, the camping ban is happening. As of May 11th, it will once again be illegal to camp in any public area not designated by the Parks and Recreation Department; to sit or lie on a public sidewalk, or sleep outdoors in and near the downtown and University of Texas areas, and to panhandle at specific hours and locations.
So now what?
It can be frustrating to sit on the sidelines, see human suffering, and wonder when (or if) it's going to get better. Will city leaders come up with a plan that works? How long will that take? And what can be done in the meantime?
One of the best things about doing what we do is that we get a constant, inside look at the change makers, the amazing nonprofits who are working on these problems all day, everyday. Here are a few of the organizations who are already addressing the issue of homelessness in Austin, and some quick ways you can help.
Support the Legal Alternative
The Esperanza Community is a sanctioned (read: legal) encampment in East Austin, run by our good friends at The Other Ones Foundation. We expect they are going to be flooded with new residents in the weeks to come and we have an ongoing COCObundle campaign to provide them with a steady supply of tents, sleeping bags, hygiene essentials and safety equipment. You can also support their work directly by visiting their website.
Make Youth Homelessness Rare, Brief, and Non-recurring
One of the most upsetting causes of homelessness (at least for us) is when it happens as as a result of young people "aging out" of the foster care system or being forced to leave their homes for various reasons.
Our partners at LifeWorks break cycles of instability by providing the support and services youth experiencing homelessness need to thrive. When you buy a bundle from our bundle shop and select "Texas" and "At-risk Youth" you'll support LifeWorks with essentials for young people moving out of homelessness. You can also support their amazing mission, in general, by visiting the LifeWorks website.
Address Addiction and Mental Health
It's no secret that mental health and addiction issues are massive contributors to homelessness.
Our superstar local partner addressing this issue head on is Integral Care. The organization works on the front lines to improve the lives of adults and children living with mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities in our community. Buy a bundle, select "Texas" and "Addiction Recovery and Mental Health" to supply them with essentials for those currently and formerly experiencing homelessness. You can also support their work on the Integral Care website.
Whether you want to support refugees, veterans or survivors of domestic violence, there's an organization in Austin where you can lend a hand. Check out KVUE's list of nonprofits who are accepting donations and volunteers to help.