A Safe Place to Call Home

Cecily Hawkins, age 42, began working with Caritas of Austin in October 2021. She had been homeless for many years. Most recently, Cecily lived on the streets at Rundberg Lane and I-35 after her previous apartment caught fire and burned down two years ago. At the time, she was not connected to any support services and was unable to re-establish a stable home.

“Everybody deserves a safe place, and the streets are not safe,” said Cecily. Still, she felt it was safer to live outside than in a shelter. She remembers how excruciatingly hot the summers were, having no shelter from the heat.

Caritas of Austin’s ImpACT program provides Supportive Housing for the highest utilizers of local crisis services in Austin/Travis County prior to program enrollment. As a result of homelessness and unaddressed physical and mental health issues, unhoused community members often turn to hospital emergency rooms for care and have much more frequent contact with local police and jails due to current laws regarding homelessness.

The goal of the ImpACT Program is not only ending the devastating reality of homelessness for those who have been surviving on the streets for so long, but also to benefit the entire community, making Austin a more vibrant place for all.

In December of last year, Cecily moved into her own apartment because of supporters like you.

“It felt strange at first,” she said. “It took about a month for me to get used to it.”

Having a safe and permanent place to call home was the starting point for Cecily to begin rebuilding many other areas of well-being in her life.

Most urgently, the Caritas of Austin team helped her establish primary medical care and mental health services, which had gone unaddressed while she was homeless. She says with the right medications, she now feels more like herself and is able to stay focused on reality.

Cecily was also limited in her mobility due to one of her legs being amputated at age 18. But she is now able to get rides through Metro Access, which have greatly improved her quality of life and allowed her to get out more.

One of the best parts of 2022 for Cecily is the chance to breathe life back into her creativity, which she says makes her feel really good. She is an artist and is working on painted pieces to sell at Art from the Streets in October. She loves having a kitchen again and cooking meals, like her favorite dish: fettucine alfredo. And she loves trips to Cheapskates, where she looks for clothing options that allow her to express herself.

The team approach at Caritas of Austin enables clients to feel supported in many areas of life. Community Housing Specialists work to identify homes and neighborhoods that are a good fit for clients to live. Case Managers focus on connection to health services, income, and work together with clients on goal setting. And Peer Support Specialists are professionals with lived experiences who can uniquely relate to a client’s situation and support them as they work to reach their full potential. Caritas’ Food, Education, and Employment programs provide even more resources to help clients succeed.

“Cecily really makes use of the services available to her,” said Nathaniel Hall, Peer Support Specialist. “She takes a lot of responsibility and has been making such great choices for herself.”

Cecily has also built a relationship with her dad for the first time in many years, something that would not have been possible for her even just a year ago. Her dad can’t help but express how proud he is of how much progress his daughter has made.

“I am working on things that are good for me, even when they are hard,” Cecily said. “I’m thankful to have a team because without it, you can’t be successful.”