A Story of Hope

At Caritas of Austin, each person we serve shares the experience of homelessness, but that doesn’t mean the solution to homelessness is one-size-fits-all. The people we serve are as unique as their thumbprint, with different stories, experiences and hopes for their future.

For Kenneth, his story may be full of loss, but it’s also full of unwavering hope and defiant joy for the future.

Kenneth lived in Portland his whole life, a city he fondly referred to as Austin’s “sister city.” He was happily married with two children he claimed as his own.

He laughs when he recalls marrying his wife. “Our daughter was ten years old at the time, and she hated me,” he said. “She thought I was trying to replace her dad. I made sure she knew I wasn’t, and now we’re best friends. Now, she has four daughters who call me their grandpa.”

But this well-being began to unravel in 2012, when his wife passed away.

Kenneth came to Texas to live in Texarkana with family. Yet, in less than a year, two of his brothers passed away, and, a year after that, his 28 year-old-son died from a heart attack.

The grief overwhelmed him, and he decided to move to Austin for a fresh start and a new job.

When he arrived at Austin, he and the friend he traveled with learned that the job offer was no longer available. With nowhere else to go, Kenneth became homeless.

He describes it as one of the worst experiences he’s ever had.

“The way people treat you,” he said, shaking his head. “I couldn’t work, so I would hold a sign at an intersection close to where I slept under I-35. One time, a man threw a beer can at me, said an expletive, and told me, ‘That’s what you really want.’”

But he said the people of Austin are also what gave him the hope he needed to keep going.

“My experience out there was brutal,” he said. “But there are also a lot of generous, understanding people in Austin. I was counting change to see if I could afford to buy a meal, and a man came up to me and said, ‘Hey, order whatever you want. I’ll buy it.’ I didn’t go hungry that day because of him.”

In 2020, after eight years of experiencing homelessness, Kenneth learned of the Coordinated Assessment, an assessment tool that is used by various service providers to prioritize individuals and families most in need of housing services.

He completed the form, and a few days later, he became a Caritas of Austin client. He stayed in a hotel while he and his case manager apartment hunted.

“When I think of Kenneth, I think of a Thomas Edison quote,” Ryan Jannak, Kenneth’s case manager, said. “’The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.’”

Kenneth’s perseverance led to his new apartment. As he moved in, Kenneth said he felt an immense sense of relief.

With the support of generous donors like you, Kenneth had a safe place to live and has been able to make his apartment into a home.

“Now, I have furniture, a cell phone, food on the table. It’s a pretty place,” Kenneth said. “We all have a story, and I’m so happy with where mine is going.”

With the support of Austinites like you, Caritas of Austin provides hundreds of people a year with a safe place to call home, and we’re increasing that number each year. With the opening of Espero Rutland, we will house an additional 171 individuals who have experienced homelessness and provide them with the resources to thrive. Together, we are ending homelessness in Austin.

“Caritas always has your best interest at heart. I thank them every day,” Kenneth said.

Thank you for giving to Caritas of Austin and making our mission of ending homelessness a community mission!