UT student organization supports homeless students

Tehya Rassman

This semester, human biology sophomore Alan Martinez created Friends of Street Youth at UT-Austin, an organization that reaches out to homeless youth and fosters communication between the homeless and society.

“They’re a very minor group in this large minority (of homeless people),” Martinez said of homeless students. “They’re like a minority of a minority, and the goal of our group is to bring attention to the young, homeless people on campus and try to reach out to students and some members of this homeless population.”

He restarted the organization this semester because the minister at the Street Youth Ministry, where Martinez volunteers, encouraged him to. The organization, which currently has six members, will set up donation boxes at all residence halls where students can donate clean clothes.

“I know they really need stuff like underwear and socks, things not really donated much,” Martinez said. “It’s normally shirts and pants, but underwear and socks get bad really fast, and that’s what they need the most.”

Martinez has spoken to homeless UT students and said they feel stigmatized, so they try to blend in.

“In their words, they say they aim (to) look decent enough to where people don’t actually know they’re homeless until they tell them,” Martinez said.

Some other organizations are also trying to address youth homelessness. Last Wednesday, homelessness advocacy groups Stop Abuse for Everyone, Lifeworks and Caritas of Austin held an event to discuss youth homelessness.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allotted Lifeworks a grant of $5.2 million to address this issue. The group is distributing the money among the three organizations to “maximize resources” and “help more people,” said Julianne Hanckel, director of communications and marketing for Lifeworks.

“This event is the perfect example of three agencies in Austin coming together to really initiate this community conversation,” Hanckel said. 

Erin Goodison, supportive housing advocacy manager at Stop Abuse for Everyone, said she doesn’t know any homeless UT students but welcomes them at the agency.

“I strongly hope that if there are any UT students who are experiencing homelessness or abuse, that they will reach out to us through our safeline, talk, text or chat to try and get connected and find out if there are resources to help them,” Goodison said.