The Importance of Belonging

Tim Rinn

Homelessness is a devastating experience that leaves people feeling lost and isolated from their community.

From his two years of experiencing homelessness, Tim Rinn understands this feeling on a personal level. And now he’s partnering with Caritas of Austin’s Education program to help restore a sense of belonging for others.

“I want others to know that someone knows how they feel,” Tim said.

Like most people, Tim never expected to become homeless. He had a successful military career in the Navy where he served as Captain Secretary. He loved travelling the world, learning about new cultures and tasting local cuisine.

He looks back fondly on that time in his life, saying, “It was the best thing I ever did.”

Tim came back to Texas at the urging of his six sisters, who wanted him closer to home. He started working in the car business, but got involved with the transportation of illegal substances, and ultimately ended up in jail. It was a mistake he will always regret, and one that turned over his life in a way that felt impossible to recover from. After he was released, he started working odd jobs, but he was unable to make enough to cover rent and utilities and ended up living on the streets.

“When I was homeless, I was always working,” Tim said. “I had hope that I would come up quick.”

Tim held on to a positive outlook despite his lack of a safe place to call home, which he credits to his military background. He also did his best to encourage the people he met who were also experiencing homelessness.

“I met men and women on the streets who were depressed, and I always tried to tell them: ‘This is temporary for you. This is not your final chapter of life,’” he said. “I still get teary-eyed when I think about that hopeless look in their eyes.”

After two years without a home, Tim connected with Caritas of Austin and moved into his own apartment. He was beyond thankful to have a roof over his head and quickly began settling into his home.

Now, Tim is rebuilding wellbeing in his life and looking for avenues to give back to those transitioning out of homelessness. One of the ways he is doing that is through partnering with Caritas of Austin’s Education Program to create an orientation video for new Caritas of Austin clients

In addition to offering life skills and professional development classes, the Caritas Education team works individually with clients on growth opportunities and goals unique to their lives. For Tim, that means using his voice and lived experience for the good of others.

“I want people to know that it’s okay to take your time or to feel overwhelmed. What are your aspirations? Because Caritas will open up a landscape of opportunities. You just have to decide where you want to go,” he said.

Across all programs, Caritas of Austin values peer support and the power those with lived experience have in connecting with others in similar circumstances.

“Tim is very enthusiastic about sharing his experience transitioning from the streets to a house with other Caritas clients,” Education Program Manager Mayra Lopez Gutierrez said. “He wants others to have the same opportunity.”

The Education team and unique contributions of the people we serve provide yet another layer of support in our work to end homelessness as we know it in Austin. We are grateful for the chance to collectively make Austin more vibrant for all.