The Thumbprint of Ending Homelessness

For Caritas of Austin, building wellbeing is a personalized process. Each person we serve comes to us with a life story that is completely unique to them, and that uniqueness drives everything we do to support them. That personalization is even displayed in our logo, which symbolizes a thumbprint.

We believe that stable housing is the foundation of wellbeing, but even this first step does not look the same for each person we serve. At Caritas of Austin, our professionally trained staff work with individuals one-on-one from the very beginning, forming a strong partnership that puts the client in control as they set their own life goals. We even have Landlord Outreach Specialists whose special role is to find a home that meets a family’s geographic, social, and financial preferences.

The transition from homelessness to having a home is often very stressful for people who have experienced homelessness. With this in mind, staff members avoid rushing clients into a housing situation that might not be ideal. Instead, they have the opportunity to ask questions and share their point of view, working as active participants in their own recovery. “As much as possible, we really try to allow clients to have a choice between housing options.” says Marcy Stahl, a Supportive Housing Program Manager, “We want stable housing that lasts.”

By allowing clients to drive the process of goal setting, staff build strong rapport with them and get to know each person’s support system and their hopes for the future. The relationships that build our social wellbeing – such as friends, neighbors, schools, and faith groups – are all considered when developing goals and plans.

Affordable and healthy food is another important layer of wellbeing, but families’ needs vary greatly. In order to accommodate different cultural, religious, and dietary restrictions, the Caritas Pantry uses a self-shopping model. People are able to take home groceries that uniquely fit the nutritional needs of their family.

Clients also work with the Caritas of Austin team on a comprehensive plan for employment, which takes into account a person’s educational and professional background, as well as other resources they are accessing, such as referrals to other organizations and work clothing or equipment needs. From there, they work with their Employment Specialist on a plan for the future that balances the individual’s long-term career goals with the real and immediate financial needs of their household.

Caritas clients bring with them widely varying levels of education, work experience, and family situations. “The refugees we serve arrive having obtained education levels that range between doctoral degrees to no formal education whatsoever. We work within the broader community to find opportunities that will serve each person in the long run,” says Allison Watkins, Employment Specialist.

The core belief that we are all human and bring personal stories, strengths, and struggles to the table makes all the difference in our daily work. We know that with personalized support, people who have experienced both local and international homelessness are more likely to reach their full potential and be able to contribute to our community in meaningful ways. Your support of our work leaves its own unique thumbprint and makes our work possible. Thank you for helping end homelessness together!