Robert Jackson is a proud Austinite. Born here in 1956, he grew up with the city, marveling at the sprawl of skylines that have developed in downtown.
He reflects fondly on his childhood but remembers how difficult it was for his single mother to provide for him and his nine siblings. In his formative teenage years, he sought a sense of belonging through his friends.
“They did things that made me uncomfortable,” Robert said. “I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t want to lose their acceptance.”
In a desire to belong, Robert continued to spend time with this group of friends and ended up in Juvenile Detention for a misdemeanor.
Once he returned to Austin, he was determined to never break the law again and cut all ties with those people. He found love and got married in 2012. He adored spending time with his wife and her two children that he soon considered his own.
But years later, his wife began to argue about finances.
“She wanted more than I had to give, being on a fixed income,” Robert said. “And I wasn’t going to get her more by breaking the law.”
He ended up leaving in June 2022 with nothing but the clothes on his back. With nowhere to go, Robert experienced homelessness for months.
“It was agony,” he said. “I got sick all the time from not eating properly or getting enough rest.”
Robert was connected to Caritas of Austin through Sunrise Navigation Center. His case manager, Valerie, searched diligently for a place for him to call home, but she says Robert was just as hard working and hopeful.
“While we were looking for an apartment, Robert was so proactive in rebuilding his life,” Valerie said. “He got a washer and a dryer from one week to the next while we were looking, hoping and preparing for a place to call home.”
Three weeks later, he was in his new apartment.
Now, Robert has a safe, stable and affordable place to call home where he frequently welcomes his grandchildren to visit and stay the night.
“I love watching cartoons with them on the TV, taking them to dinner, letting them stay up past their bedtime,” he said with a smile.
When asked what he would tell people about experiencing homelessness, he said: “We have to develop a sense of humanness. Just because people are without a home doesn’t mean they should be forgotten.”
At Caritas of Austin, we believe the same – that everyone deserves a safe place to call home and to belong in our community.
To continue ending homelessness in our community, we partnered with Austin Housing Finance Corporation and The Vecino Group to develop our first housing development, Espero Rutland, which will open this summer.
Espero Rutland will provide 171 individuals with a safe place to call home and all the resources they need to rebuild well-being.
Like Robert said, experiencing homelessness is an isolating experience.
To help our fellow Austinites feel a sense of belonging, Deputy Director for Espero, Rachel Hanover, is actively planning community building activities for when residents move in to Espero Rutland. Activities like monthly birthday parties, community barbeques, yoga or exercise classes, gardening, movie nights and much more.
“These activities provide a space to learn new skills and sense of community that residents haven’t had while experiencing homelessness,” Rachel said. “By creating a safe and supportive living environment, our residents can continue to rebuild well-being in their lives and thrive.”
Because of your support, our neighbors can reach their full potential and contribute to our community, making Austin more vibrant for all.