Together with support from our community, Caritas of Austin is making big strides in addressing youth homelessness—and changing the lives of young people like Christian. Nineteen-year-old Christian is from Houston. This year, he lost something most teenagers take for granted: a stable place to call home.
Christian was living with his grandparents until they told him he could no longer live there this January. With only $100 and little direction, he came to Austin. He used his money to stay one night at a motel, slept on the street the next night, slept at a local shelter the third night, and resorted to sleeping in a tent night four.
Though camping was a forced decision, he found a community of others who had experienced a similar loss of home. Through these new friendships, Christian learned about an assessment which he could take as a first step to regaining stable housing. After two months of living outside, he said the cold nights became so uncomfortable that he knew he needed another solution.
Thanks to our community’s commitment to rapid re-housing for youth, the process moved very quickly. Christian was connected to a professional social worker at Caritas of Austin within a week of taking the assessment, and in just two more weeks—on March 20th—he moved into a studio apartment of his own.
“It was a little strange at first. I honestly just laid in bed for the first two days,” Christian said of his adjustment to sleeping inside.
His case manager, Lezah, said one of the main goals of the youth homelessness program is to stop the experience of homelessness as soon as possible in order to prevent it from becoming a cyclical issue. “One of the things we’ve seen in working with youth is how well connected they are. It’s great that they are finding out from others that there is help available,” she added.
Caritas of Austin works collaboratively with SAFE and LifeWorks to ensure that youth have access to an affordable place to call home along with support in other areas such as employment, mental health, life skills, education, and social support.
Now that he once again has the foundation of a stable home, Christian can focus on rebuilding wellbeing in other areas and start making goals for the future. He is now working at a department store and is taking the steps to continue his college education. Lezah said from their first meeting, she has been impressed with Christian’s self-motivation and preparation.
Having that one-on-one partnership with a case manager has made all the difference. “She’s awesome. She is kind and supportive. She listens to my ideas, even if they are big. She has also been really helpful in explaining how things work like paying bills on my own, which I didn’t have experience with yet,” said Christian.
Stable housing allows youth like Christian to think beyond basic needs toward their future. “Not many young people who are experiencing homelessness have been given space to imagine a future past the present,” said Lezah. With the strong foundation of a place to live, Christian and dozens of other youth now have that space to grow. “Housing opens up so many doors that people don’t realize. Without a permanent address, you cannot get a library card and there are significant challenges with doctor appointments and paying monthly bills,” she added.
Thank you for your continued support of all in our community without a stable place to call home. You are building stronger futures and helping to end homelessness as we know it!