by Rev. Randy Knighten on October 17, 2023
December 05, 2023
Last year, KXAN reported on a town hall meeting in which medical professionals from Dell Medical Center spoke about what some organizations are doing to provide healthcare to a rising number of people experiencing homelessness in Austin.
“The numbers are not going in the right direction. Chronic homelessness is on the rise,” said Dr. Tim Mercer, director of the Mobile Medical and Mental Healthcare Team, or M3 team. “Chronic homelessness – those who have been continuously homeless for at least a year – has risen significantly since 2015,” he continued. “We’re seeing this across the county but specifically in Texas.”
In 2020, for the first time in Austin’s history, the number of people living outside of shelters was greater than those living in shelters. This, says Mercer, has grave health consequences. According to KXAN's report, people experiencing homelessness outside of shelters do worse across the board on a variety of health outcomes, including living, on average, 20 years less than the general population.
One of the organizations providing access to mental and physical health resources for those who are unhoused is The Charlie Center. The Charlie Center began as a one-person street outreach during the pandemic. When Director Leah Hargrave began reaching out to those living on the streets, she noticed that not only did folks need help financially, but they also needed assistance connecting to medical care, accessing SNAP benefits (food stamps), acquiring state IDs, and completing housing assessments. Leah's passion for serving people experiencing homelessness in Austin grew into a vision for a navigation center called The Charlie Center.
Acts 2 describes how the early Christian community handled their property and the
needs of those around them. “... they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
While you may not be led to sell your possessions to care for those who are in need, there is an opportunity for you to support those who are experiencing homelessness by attending the Saint John’s Coffee House, hosted by the Saint John's Mental Health Ministries team. May we all move more towards Luke's clear vision of a Christian community where all members of the community have their basic needs met, where there is enough for all.