Rewriting the Story of Homelessness

Each person who walks through our doors shares a common experience: homelessness. But because of you, homelessness does not define their futures. While hundreds of the people we serve each year have experienced homelessness right here in Austin, hundreds more have been internationally homeless as refugees.

“When you look at the experience of a refugee compared to someone who is without housing right here in Austin, you might overlook the similarities,” Executive Director Jo Kathryn Quinn said.

Every person we serve has access to individualized services to build wellbeing, and it all begins with a safe place to call home.

In his home country of Iran, Peyman loved his job working in a restaurant. He cooked Iranian, Mediterranean, and Asian food for 12 years, in addition to serving as a manager. Sadly, he knew there was no future for him in Iran. As someone who identifies as LGBT, Peyman was neither safe nor free in his home country. In Iran, punishment for being gay can be as severe as life in prison – or execution.

With no other options, he fled his home country, left his family, and crossed the border into Turkey: homeless, jobless, and unable to speak the language. Life was incredibly hard for three long years for Peyman, with no legal right to hold jobs and no reliable place to sleep at night. “I had no security of a future,” says Peyman. Despite that frightening reality, it was still safer than returning to Iran.

He lived in such despair that he attempted to end his own life multiple times. “I am like thousands of refugees who do not get any care. I had no security of a future. Insecurity was always with me.”

In February of this year, he was finally granted refugee status. Only two countries, the United States and Canada, accept refugees on the grounds of persecution for sexual orientation. Peyman was excited about the opportunity to live in the United States, where he has begun rebuilding his life and feels free for the first time.

From the moment he stepped off the plane in Austin, Peyman had an apartment to go home to and a case manager ready to support him. In refugees’ first six months in Austin, the Caritas of Austin team works to provide a safe home, cultural orientation, financial assistance, nutritious food, English language training, and employment support.

While serving refugees is unique in many ways, it’s similar to our services for clients who have experienced homelessness on the streets of Austin. Our goal with every person is to build holistic wellbeing and create a strong foundation for people to reach their full potential. It’s through the community’s support of these vital programs that Austin is made a more welcoming place, one where people can thrive and begin contributing to the community.

Peyman’s future is filled with hope because of the welcome and support he has received in Austin. “I found a job within a month and a half of arriving and the food Pantry was great, especially because I could come weekly,” says Peyman, who now has a job working at a vegetarian restaurant. “I wish to live like any other youth. I have achieved some of that now that I am here,” he says.

Peyman has been through incredibly difficult circumstances, but he has optimism and a desire to give back in the community. Having been through the experience of international homelessness himself, he understands how traumatic it can be – and how meaningful the work you make possible is. “Your help is priceless,” he says.

Thank you for making ending homelessness together a reality for Peyman and hundreds of others this year!