McCORD: Homelessness in Austin Beyond the Policy

By Mia Garza McCord

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AUSTIN Texas (Texas Insider Report) As Austin Mayor Steve Adler and his City Council go head-to-head with Texas State Officials over the citys recent ordinances thatve caused an increase in visibility of the homeless population as a community we need to pause and take a moment to understand the true cause of what leads a person to live on the streets.

Perhaps understanding why can lead to a true solution beyond policy a people solution a community solution.

No policy will change the root cause or offer a meaningful solution to Austins homeless issue. A startling statistic Travis County the home of Austin Texas has approximately 2255 homeless individuals on the street on any given night.

As my family pulled into our church parking lot this past weekend I immediately knew we were in for a treat. Our church was hosting an art fair featuring the work of the residents of Austins Community First Village.

What I didnt expect was to be moved to tears by Mobile Loaves & Fishes and Community First Village founder Alan Graham. Alan points to the root cause of homelessness as the result of a profound catastrophic loss of family."

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Prior to Alan speaking we watched a video of a success story through the Community First Village.

The testimonial was from a woman who went through a painful divorce where she lost her children. That divorce lead to her losing her home and turning to drugs to ease the pain of her loss.

She lost everything including herself.

Community First Village has not only given her a home but has also set her on a path to success. As a resident of the community she works to earn a living within and has found a family not in the traditional sense but a family born out of likeness... the likeness of profound catastrophic loss." 

I will be the first to admit that since the Austin ordinance has gone into place I have felt increasingly uncomfortable walking on the streets of downtown Austin by myself. I have had several uncomfortable encounters and have found myself avoiding walking out of my downtown office all together.

But the reason I was moved to tears by Alan was self-recognition and my sense of responsibility as someone who calls herself a Christian. 

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If we are as the bible teaches each a perfect creation in Gods image then those men and women whom I briskly walk past on the street while avoiding eye contact are not a mistake not an inconvenience and not homeless because it is what they choose. They are our fellow man who have experienced that profound catastrophic loss that is hard for us to fathom.

What Alan and his team are doing are bringing dignity and sense of purpose back to a group of individuals who are utterly scarred by trauma who are wandering alone in this world. 

Are there safety issues? Absolutely. Are there sanitation issues? Absolutely. Is the increase in homeless individuals on sidewalks alleyways and under overpasses a problem for the economic future of our city? Without a doubt.

While the city council and our state battle out these issues we especially those of us who go by Christian need to do our part. Perhaps when we are approached by the same gentleman who asks for help every day as we walk into Starbucks to buy that $5 morning latte tomorrow we stop and offer to buy him breakfast before he asks. Maybe we ask his name or even his story.

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Maybe organize a Saturday morning shopping trip to Community First Village and support the amazingly beautiful work the villagers are selling.

Or something our family is looking to do take the whole family out for a movie night at the villages amphitheater with the intention of bringing a human side to this issue for our children. We have some good friends that instead of birthday gifts at their kids parties ask that guests bring peanut butter and jelly and socks to donate to Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

Volunteer your time whether it be making sandwiches for the trucks or actually serving on a truck. And it does not have to be Mobile Loaves & Fishes. Find an organization you believe in and want to be part of.

It doesnt really matter how or where you find your niche. What matters is that we begin to reframe the conversation around homelessness. That begins with engagement and understanding.

While government can attempt to mitigate the health and safety issues surrounding the homelessness issue the underlying cause is not one for government to solve. Thats up to the community. Its on our shoulders.

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Collectively lets confront the human side of homelessness.

Mia Garza McCord is president of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TXCCRI) a state-based think tank made up of Texas Legislators determined to implement conservative public policies in state government.

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