Founded in 1989, HtH is the oldest all volunteer, action, homeless organization in the state of Texas. The mission is Education and Advocacy around the issues of ending and preventing homelessness.
Re-Criminalizing Homelessness — Speak up now!
The Austin city council recently voted to put on its May ballot a vote to reinstate the no camping ban including the no sit/no lie ordinances. Now is the time to contact your mayor and council members particularly those who have supported decriminalizing homelessness, such as Mayor Adler, Kathy Tovo, Ann Kitchen, Greg Casar, Sabino Renteria, and others, we pray.
First call to action is cold weather shelter. Anyone that reads this, our urgent plea is to email our mayor and city council in this urgent time of cold weather. House the Homeless is encouraging to use the Convention Center or other alternatives sites that are already over burdened due to Covid-19 or at capacity.
A second call to action is to not displace unsheltered neighbors from bridges and the four major camp areas without having an immediate plan for alternative shelter/housing.
Finally, advise your mayor and council members that the wording for the May ballot regarding reinstating a camping ban must consider that those with disabilities, the aged, and in fact anyone with no place to go. The no sit/no lie ordinance is absolutely inhumane and unconscionable we must have at least 15 minute respites particularly for those with disabilities and make other provisions.
Federal Minimum Wage Debate
Federal resolve is insufficient; highly recommend Universal Living Wage formula indexed on the cost of housing wherever the person lives and works.
All Austin voters have a choice to make in the coming weeks. The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) is asking you to make the humane, evidence-based, right choice: Vote NO on Prop B.
Prop B would make it a crime for people living in extreme poverty to sit down and rest, to live in a tent when they have no other option, and even just to ask for assistance to meet their basic needs.
It would not help unhoused Austinites access housing.
It would not help our neighbors find new shelter space in a system that’s already at capacity.
It would not create or fund any new programs to help our neighbors experiencing homelessness rebuild the safe, stable foundation people need to be able not only to thrive but also to weather life’s storms.
Criminalizing the actions a person takes in order to survive under unimaginable conditions is the same as criminalizing that condition. Prop B criminalizes many of the actions a person experiencing homelessness may need to take in order to survive. Therefore, Prop B criminalizes homelessness.
Homelessness is unacceptable in such a wealthy city in the wealthiest country on the planet. We can do better to provide human services rather than punitive responses to people experiencing homelessness. No one wants to see our neighbors – the majority of whom were housed in the Austin area before falling into homelessness – forced to live in unsafe, unstable conditions on sidewalks and under overpasses. But forcing people instead to hide in the woods or creek beds where we don’t have to see homelessness is not a solution. The solution is housing. Criminalizing homelessness will neither serve those in need, nor will it scale up housing to meet the need.
In fact, Prop B would actively make ending homelessness more difficult. Under these proposed ordinances, unhoused Austinites would receive more and more citations and fines. Almost 3 in 5 citations turned into arrest warrants between 2015 and 2018, according to KUT, because people couldn’t pay, get to court, or receive mail requesting payment or a court appearance in the first place. Those warrants negatively impact credit scores and show up on apartment and employment screenings, further complicating people’s efforts to get back on their feet. Prop B is not a solution; it only creates additional barriers for people striving to exit homelessness.
Recriminalizing homelessness would also have a disproportionate impact on our Black neighbors experiencing homelessness. Centuries of racism and inequities in our systems, including housing, healthcare, education, criminal justice, and employment have led to what we see in our homeless response system today: A Black Austinite is at least 4.8 times more likely than a white Austinite to experience homelessness. Black people make up more than 1 in 3 people experiencing homelessness in Austin, but less than 1 in 10 people in Travis County’s population. By contrast, non-Hispanic whites make up 33 percent of people experiencing homelessness; and Latinos, 25 percent of the total population experiencing homelessness. Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and those who are multi-racial make up the remainder.
About 1 in 4 people booked into the Travis County jail is Black. Creating additional criminal offenses for people who are unsheltered will disproportionately impact unhoused Black people, potentially resulting in increased rates of incarceration and, too often, returns to unsheltered homelessness with fewer prospects to access safe, stable housing. Criminalizing homelessness makes both our homeless response and criminal justice systems not only more inequitable but more inhumane.
We know from decades of research that the first step toward ending someone’s homelessness is a home. Our current system simply doesn’t have enough housing for everyone in need. ECHO and our community partners work every day to increase investments in and access to safe and affordable housing and supportive services to provide more of our neighbors with the stability needed to build a solid foundation. Our local, state, and federal partners must prioritize safe and affordable housing programs and fund these resources at levels that will make a real difference for our unhoused neighbors. These are the real solutions we need our community to rally around.
Created by Richard R. Troxell as a House the Homeless, Inc. project in 1989, the HtH Plastic Pocket Resource Guide is designed to equip persons experiencing homelessness with easily understood information on what, where, when and how resources (food, shelter, healthcare, crisis numbers, etc.) can be accessed. This takes into consideration the fact that many of these neighbors do not have access to phones nor computers. We have updated this critical resource 18 times with 10,000 printed each time.
Members of HtH keep them in our vehicles as do our full Board of Directors. We fold a dollar into each one and hand them out to people standing on our corners. We exchange first names and it breaks the ice with those who often feel ignored or even invisible. Other organizations and churches request a number of these and we invited a small donation to offset costs.
The Plastic Pocket Guide is an 8 paneled card that is printed, laminated, (against the ravages of rain) and scored so they can be folded down and placed in a pocket. We ask that the cards not be photo-copied but rather that people contact us for new or replacement cards so we can monitor the level of community need.
We afford this project through individual donations; and over the years, a number of entities have supported re-printing, including most the City of Austin Parks Department. We provide one side of a panel for their important environmental communication. In that panel the Parks Dept. shares concerns about such things as defecating or urinating too close to water sources, etc.
As you can imagine, the Plastic Pocket Guides do what the Internet cannot, it provides valuable information along with the very personal message that society (the community of Austin) cares about them. Good stuff.
This week we turn from regretting the current housing situation to exploring a couple of intriguing ideas. For CityLab.com, Kriston Capps articulated one of America’s frequently-asked questions:
There’s vacant property everywhere, and there are homeless people everywhere. So why the hell don’t we use that property to house the homeless?
The answer may lie in the somewhat obscure Title V, part of 1987’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the same legislation that demanded education for children experiencing homelessness. Title V says that property no longer wanted by the federal government can and should be given to states, cities and nonprofits, for housing and relevant needed services.
The long and winding road that must be traveled to do this is described by Capps in exquisite detail which is briefly encapsulated here. Although Title V is “a shockingly sensible way to tap into a vast amount of property sitting unused in American cities,” the process sounds excruciating, so challenging, in fact, that in 2003, almost 1,000 orphan federal properties deemed as homeless shelter-suitable were on the roster — yet only 17 applications were made.
How it starts
The Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gathers information on properties that Uncle Sam is done with. Their availability is made known to interested parties, and homeless-related causes are at an advantage. Before the government can sell or otherwise convey a property, it has to be offered first to an organization dedicated to alleviating homelessness.
Although HUD does the publicity, application must be made via the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Capps wrote:
To receive final approval from HHS, an applicant would need to demonstrate not just expertise but also a financing plan to convert the building or property. (Title V commits no funds to homeless services.) That could be difficult for an applicant to demonstrate on a tight turn-around of just 90 days… Agencies frequently fail to comply with Title V, and there have been consistent congressional efforts to bypass it.
Still, despite difficulties, it is being done. In Los Angeles, the Salvation Army used Title V to create the Bell Shelter. San Francisco is working on a similar plan to build two structures with an overall 250 housing units. In Washington, D.C., the process is underway to turn a former federal warehouse into a combination of permanent supportive housing for seniors and transitional services facility.
Title V has created some 500 emergency shelters, transitional housing facilities, nonprofit offices, and other spaces using about 900 acres of federal land across 30 states and D.C.
Last December, recognizing the shortcomings of the original legislation, Congress passed some more laws to fix it. Available properties are now listed online, and the application process is easier. Permanent supportive housing is now allowed. If a local government, faith-based organization or housing nonprofit wants to turn an old federal building into a shelter, apparently zoning laws and the objections of neighborhood associations can be ignored.
Can they work together?
Truth-Out.org recently published a piece by Christa Hillstrom that focuses on how locally owned businesses thrive when organized as co-operatives. Could these two concepts meld together? Could a housing co-op meet the requirements to get a big, formerly federal building? Word on the street is that the headquarters of the FBI (pictured) might soon be available. As Capps reminds us, any organization that can turn it into a homeless shelter gets first dibs.
Order Now! Limited Edition!
The statue miniatures are available in limited quantity for a donation of $250 or more. Limited editions, numbered by Timothy P. Schmalz, world renowned sculptor.
The homeless tell us that they feel invisible
The Home Coming is a project to create life-sized bronze sculptures to complement and humanize the Homeless Memorial which has existed in on Auditorium Shores on Lady Bird Lake, Austin, Texas for over two decades. The homeless tell us that they feel invisible – The Homecoming will at last put a face on homelessness, showing the plight of the Veteran (one-third of all homeless are U.S. Veterans), his child (the average age of the homeless is nine years old), and the forgotten woman (a victim of domestic violence, physical or mental illness, lost jobs and benefits). Sculpture artist, founder and president of HTH, Richard R. Troxell, has donating his time and labor to the project.
Behind the Scenes
The Veteran in my mind is lost in his own revelry. His promises of “America the Beautiful” have been betrayed. He sacrificed his youth and in thanks only gained the aching hollowness left behind by lost brothers. He will go on because he has true grit. But he is shop worn. Yes, he is angry but he swallows his anger or his daughter. His anger is suppressed and has been supplanted with the drive to bring his daughter into a better world if he can only find it. His gaze is lost staring into the fire as happens to people late at night at the end of a very very long day…. or after years of searching for “the promised land.”
The interaction is between the old woman and the child. The child sees her first, because in spite of everything, her spirit remains alive…vital. The old woman is defeated. She may well have partial cataracts following decades absent of medical care. She has lost everything. She raised three children. One is now dead and two are blowing in the wind. Her husband just left one day and never returned. She is in the absolute darkness. Suffering chronic depression, she trudges from nowhere and is going to nowhere. When she first sees the flicker of the fire light in her upper peripheral vision, she is not sure of the shadowy figures behind it.
The little girl sees her and sees the old woman as a possible companion…who may know the secretes that the future holds for her. They are reflections of one another’s past and future. The girl is desperate to strike a spark only struck between two gals… the little girl coaxes the old woman to the camp almost like a puppy.
The old woman now drawn closer to the camp, is still hard pressed to see and understand the intentions of the man and daughter now seen clearly warming themselves by the fire. The Veteran father feels the excitement in the body of his little girl, and he is stirred from his daze. Looking at the little girl and then following her gaze, he sees the old woman and realizes his daughter’s desire to welcome her into their camp. He immediately follows suit and beckons the old woman to the warmth of the fire. Haltingly, the old woman closes the gap between them and then she freezes. The essence of the moment envelopes her. She is being welcomed into their camp…their home. She is being beckoned…welcomed home…no questions. She is emotionally and physically over-whelmed. Her satchels… her burdens, drop the last 1 1/2 ” to the ground. There is a look of awe, wonderment, relief, joy…even tears. The energy release can be seen in her shoulders…her entire being. The statue is called The Home Coming.
Each set of miniatures comes with a label displaying the signature of Timothy P. Schmalz, one of the world’s premiere bronze sculptors (http://www.sculpturebytps.com/about-the-artist/). “Jesus on the Bench” is one of his original art pieces.
Each character in the statue has their own story of homelessness, including Joey the dog. The statue entitled The Home Coming, conceived and designed by Richard R. Troxell, is the story of a chance encounter at the edge of the woods where people, who have almost nothing, gladly share what little they have with others.
Contributions of $250 or more will secure you a set of these touching maquettes while they last. All contributions will be matched dollar for dollar by some incredible people who support House the Homeless and wish to put a face on homelessness.A donation of $250.00 or more entitles the donor to a miniature of The Home Coming statue. Please specify- “I would like the miniatures.” or “No miniatures” in a note with your check or in the comment box when paying with PayPal.
Embedded in the life-size statue will be a QR Code that will tell the back story of each character, link to a short video of “Community First” (http://mlf.org/community-first/), and provide an opportunity to make a contribution to support Community First and people with disabilities who reside there.
Thank you for your support.
Timothy P. Schmalz, internationally acclaimed sculptor and his business partner, Tony Frey, have asked to sculpt Richard’s concept, “The Home Coming” statue. Mr. Schmalz has been called the, “Michelangelo of our day,” and has created religious and secular bronze statues all over the world.
Mr. Schmalz and Richard have spent 3 months in discussions sharing concept sketches regarding the proposed project. In December 2013, they reached an agreement and have since signed a contract for Mr. Schmalz to sculpt the three piece statue. It honors the men, women, and children who have lived and died on the streets of Austin.
Mr. Schmalz is very excited about the opportunity to bring this project to Austin, Texas.
Finally, after thoroughly researching numerous foundries, we are most pleased to report reducing costs by a couple hundred thousand dollars with the cost now less than it takes to assist three people in receiving substance abuse detox and treatment in preparing them for housing.
Mr. Schmalz completed the 2 foot model from which miniatures and the full size statue will be rendered, and House the Homeless continues the statue “gifting process” to the City of Austin.
Click Below to see Timothy working and speaking about the project.
timothy_schmalz_and_pope_francis.jpg.size.medium2.promoYouTube video of Timothy speaking: http://youtu.be/brSwRWXy3pU
YouTube footage of Timothy sculpting The Home Coming: http://youtu.be/cG4Pq97FLUo
The Homecoming is a project of House the Homeless, Inc. (HTH), an all volunteer educational and advocacy group
founded in Austin, TX in 1989. Our mission is education and advocacy surrounding all issues of homelessness.
We consider all homeless and formerly homeless individuals to be members.
At least 60% of HTH Board of Directors is comprised of homeless/formerly homeless people.
HTH has a solid history of stewarding donations and
maintaining overhead at approximately 5%.
Since 1993, HTH has held a Sunrise Memorial Serving on Auditorium Shores to remember an increasing number of men, women and children who have died while trying to survive homelessness. At each Memorial, HTH launches its community-supported Thermal Underwear drive and party to provide warm clothes to help protect against exposure and hypothermia. Our ultimate goal is to reduce these untimely deaths by providing opportunities to get off the streets by promoting collaborative job training, living wages, case management, transitional housing, and affordable housing. HTH also has a voice on national coalitions and our Universal Living Wage campaign is endorsed by hundreds of businesses, unions, faith-based and nonprofit organizations nationwide.
Our goal is to reach $100,000 from donations and grants for The Homecoming*