In light of recent events in Charlottesville, VA, I’ve spent significant time thinking about what happened and how it might inform our work at Caritas of Austin. With each successive horrific event, our attention is focused for a couple of days before we return to life as usual. The events in Charlottesville revealed significant hatred and bigotry, and they remind me we have difficult work to do to enable healing and healthy connection. These were acts of open protest and violence in a specific time and place that could be seen, heard and felt across the country.
How does that same prejudice play out in hidden, intangible ways day in and day out? At Caritas of Austin we see personally, and every day as we walk in our building at 7th and Neches Streets, the disproportionality of homelessness. Our daily perception is confirmed in community-wide data which shows that 65.9% people experiencing homelessness are people of color* compared to 49.5% in our general population.** This is an indicator of significant inequity. While we fancy our city as a boom town and innovation hub, implicit bias and unconscious racism undermine our ability to connect everyone to real opportunity and the benefits of the local economy.
Our work at Caritas of Austin intersects with people when the cumulative effect of limited opportunity ultimately translates into homelessness. Core to our work is the belief that every person deserves dignity and respect, the opportunity to feel human. Our work with each person shifts the story from circumstances back to opportunity. I implore you to join us as we work together to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive and realize their dreams.
Jo Kathryn Quinn, Executive Director
* 2017 Point in Time Count – Ending Community Homelessness Coalition
**2010 Census data for Austin, Texas