Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT students help open Austin’s first permanent supportive housing community

Bella Juarez
The Espero Apartment Complex for the homeless is pictured on Friday.

Austin opened its first permanent supportive housing community aimed at creating affordable units for low-income households and those experiencing chronic homelessness, the city announced on Feb. 9.

The city of Austin developed Espero Rutland with two organizations: Caritas of Austin and the Vecino Group. University students worked with the organizations through a program called Project Advance Austin, which facilitates “long-term, high impact” projects benefiting the local community, said Marc Pereira, assistant director of Texas Leadership Education and Development.

As a permanent supportive housing community, Espero offers long-term housing with on-site support from case managers, said Aaron King, director of marketing and communications for Caritas of Austin.

“Our clients and people (who) have experienced homelessness can be there for an extended amount of time until they have rebuilt their well-being and they feel as though they can go out on their own and back into the community,” King said.

Danielle Gu, a finance and art history sophomore, said working with Espero Rutland through Project Advance Austin has created an opportunity to learn more about the local community.

As project manager for the Espero Rutland team, Gu said she and the other students had to decide what goal they wanted to accomplish for Espero. Visiting the complex at the end of last semester helped solidify their desire to participate in community outreach, she said.

“We got to see what they were doing, what the complex looks like (and) talk to the people who work there about how it was coming along,” Gu said. “We already knew we wanted to do a community survey, but really we wanted to understand how does this permanent supportive housing complex fit into the rest of the community that they’re in.”

Gu’s team will be collecting community feedback about perceptions of low-income housing to understand how permanent supportive housing communities like Espero Rutland can serve Austin’s unhoused population.

Pereira said the team will be tabling, sending out emails and promoting on social media to collect a wide variety of opinions.

“(The program is) all about empowering students to have a positive impact and that’s really showing in the Espero team because it is a brand new organization,” Pereira said. “That brings new challenges and the opportunities for success are all the same. And what’s really nice is our current student team is really embracing that.”

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