Dec 7, 2008

Dreaming Big

I was invited to join in an Austin community planning event called Ending Community Homelessness, ECHO. We heard from community government leaders, non-profit agency leaders and several citizens who were formerly homeless. We saw an exciting new video that addresses 10 common misconceptions about Austin community homelessness. From there we broke into smaller groups with special focus on homeless families, homeless youth, homeless veterans, and homeless with mental illness and chemical dependencies. 

I was assigned to a group that focused on homeless youth. We heard from a representative of Department of Education, a leader of Lifeworks, a leader from Ready By 21 Coalition, and a leader from Casey Family Programs, the instigator of the Raise Me Up campaign. 

Then we were asked to break into even small groups and provide input. We were asked to dream big, describing how Austin will have overcome the challenges of community homelessness in the year 2018. What was key? What was our strategy? What challenges did we face?

Here are the big and bold dreams of my small group concerning homeless youth in Austin in 2018:

We have overcome community homelessness of youth by empowering the youth themselves to be a voice in the solution. We provided mentoring to them and helped draw out the strengths in the youth. We helped organize them and give them a voice of their own. They are now recognised as a strong part of the solution in our community.

We have overcome community youth homelessness in Austin by raising public awareness within our community. We started by educating every single teacher in Austin and every single student about homelessness. We broadened the definitions of homelessness so include those at risk of homelessness and those without support networks. We made homelessness personal to our citizens and gave them personal ways to act and respond. We tied solving homelessness and being good stewards of the earth together. It has become of source of pride in Austin that we are 100% housed.

We have overcome community homelessness in Austin by distributing human scale on-step service delivery all over our community. No one wants shelters and service centers in their back yards to we put it all over town. This allows us to make them smaller so that each person can get a personal touch. We have combined homeless facilities and service delivery in neighborhoods by combining them with other necessary public buildings and services, following the model of Jake Pickle Elementary School. This has provided incentives to neighborhoods to have the facilities and services. We have recouped the cost savings from shrinking institutional programs aimed at criminal justice and invested these savings in community based homeless solutions.

I know it's a bold and audacios dream, but if 10 people can agree on these visions, why not 100? Why not a whole  neighborhood? Why not a whole community? Dare to dream!