UT community should support movements to end homelessness

Clay Olsen

According to Austin’s Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, tonight there will be over 2,000 homeless men, women and children on the streets of Travis County. We all pass some of these people every day on our way to class or work. Some of us may have a tendency to think to ourselves, “If only they were not so lazy and just got a job instead of asking for my (parents’) money.” 

This thought is as useless as it is naïve. People become homeless and fail to escape the trap for a number of reasons: lack of affordable housing, substance abuse, broken families, poverty, disabilities, etc. Tonight there will be 2,000 homeless men, women and children on the streets of this county, and I am here to give you a message: There is a solution; there is hope.

Who is responsible for the health of our community? Who must be called to take on this challenge and assist those in need? Is the answer the government? We do pay the government taxes, right? Isn’t this their responsibility to clean up? Perhaps you don’t want to deal with it because you’re just one person, and you don’t want to live in reality by admitting the problem. But ignorance is the easy way out. Why do we have to wait for government action to help our neighbors? We, as a community, can act together with the joint mission to solve this problem.

This plan has already been acted on by virtuous individuals in Austin. There are many organizations that have answered the call to fight homelessness and have offered a way for us, yes us, to get involved in the mission. These include the already-mentioned Ending Community Homelessness Organization, as well as Feed My People, to name just two. Feed My People meets at the First United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center downtown early every Tuesday and Thursday morning to serve breakfast to the homeless. Student volunteers play a vital role in its success. 

Another organization I have come to admire is Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Their mission is not only to give food to the homeless, but also to give them a new beginning. One of their programs is called “Community First,” which brings people off the streets and into homes. The homes make up small communities in which they are all given jobs. Those who join the community must work in order to pay rent for living there. The president of MLF, Alan Graham, asserted the belief that what they are doing is “groundbreaking and is going to shift how we think about the community here in the U. S.”

Mobile Loaves and Fishes designed and built what are known as “microhomes” for this community. A microhome is a very small but efficient house that can be set up quickly. Some of these homes were designed and built by UT students in Professor Stephen Ross’ architecture class as a project. Mobile Loaves and Fishes has other programs that assist the homeless while also allowing them the opportunity to hold a job themselves.

These are amazing organizations, but I cannot fully explain within this column all the good work that they do. I strongly encourage that you check them out on your own and get involved in the mission to help our community become stronger. Graham also stated that the hope of the Community First program is that it will “truly inspire young people into a lifestyle of service with the homeless. [They] would love a stronger connection with the students at the greatest university in the world!” It is time for us to step up.

This problem cannot be solved by ignoring it. If we continue to ignore, continue to back away from this issue we will see no end; rather, we will only see it get worse. We cannot wait for others to magically fix this problem. Some of your neighbors have begun to lead the way. It is time for us to rally behind them and serve.

Olsen is a finance senior from Argyle.