It was six months ago, this week, that Trinity Center’s staff and Board of Directors made the decision to close the center which would typically serve sixty to seventy people daily. Everything around us was closing as the city of Austin, the country, and the world as a whole attempted to defeat the COVID19 pandemic. For quite a while, downtown Austin was eerie, with only our brothers and sisters who are experiencing homeless still visible. However, what was even more visible amongst the empty streets and shuttered businesses were the organizations like us; libraries and other churches that were now unavailable. Imagine how the summer season felt, with temperature over 100 degrees for days in a row and every place these folks called “community” no longer available for respite and for basic services. Imagine the impact these closures had on these individuals, our neighbors.
For one week Trinity Center was closed for all services except mail. The second week we resumed serving breakfast, though in a different way; outside the gym’s door in take-away boxes. Three staff members were on site each day while three others worked remotely. Within a month, all but one staff member returned to work within the center. We took this crisis as an opportunity to catch up on stuff we usually do not have time to address. Walls were painted, files were updated, and breakfast continued.
Fast forward six months … not only have most services resumed, but the number of neighbors we serve has increased as well. We have also been able to innovate and add new services to cater to the changing needs of our neighbors during the pandemic. It breaks our hearts that we cannot just open our main 7th St. door and invite the seventy plus people back inside to hang-out and once again be a part of the community at the Trinity Center. These broken hearts never stopped evaluating what more we can do and how to keep being in the community with our brothers and sisters while still offering the balm of care to the most marginalized amongst us.
These beloved neighbors in the picture are in a line that stretches around the block each Monday to receive a week-long metro bus-pass. Once the bus passes are distributed, the line moves from 7th St. to Trinity St. where to-go breakfast is served each weekday. Neighbors have the opportunity to sign up for MAP (Medical Assistance Program) each Monday in collaboration with Community Care, so they can begin receiving prescriptions, get examined by doctors, and receive other medical care that they are unable to access without MAP.
Women neighbors stay around to get lightly used clothes, new hygiene items, socks, and underwear each Monday from 10am-noon. Three (until recently four) volunteers of the women’s closet program manage this service. St. David’s Episcopal Church, to which we belong, made the gym available to us and we are deeply grateful for the space. We can easily have another one or two volunteers on Monday, so let me know if it is you who is ready to come back and serve our sisters.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we schedule appointments and offer financial assistance for IDs as well as other documents a neighbor will need. The Center is really busy on these days with the gracious professional help from Catherine Robb on Tuesday and Martha DeGrasse on Wednesday. We thank you tremendously! The DPS offices were closed for a few months, so the demand for this service is very high
Fifteen beloved volunteers are keeping their weekly shift, preparing and lovingly serving breakfast to the 80-100 neighbors that come to our doors each weekday. Early supper is served each Sunday at 3:00PM. If you wish to come back, please email Irit at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about available spots. We MISS YOU!
Case management is offered daily. Coordinated Assessment on Friday. Help with Greyhound bus tickets to locations all over the country is offered daily, as needed to reunite neighbors with family and allow them to exit homelessness.
With an amazingly generous unsolicited grant from the Moody Foundation, on top of their yearly grant to Trinity Center, we are able to offer financial help for things that we could not offer prior to the pandemic. We have begun to help with rent, utility bills, rental deposits, and essential furniture for folks moving from the streets and shelters into housing. We offer these additional funds due to COVID19, thanks to the grant from Moody—per request and after verification. People are hurting and we surely do not want to see the number of homeless folks increase dramatically due to the mismanagement of the pandemic. To the degree that we can, we are helping folks, financially, to remain housed.
We are nearing the end of 2020 and what a year it has been! Who could have imagined the multitude of crises everywhere that we are in the midst of? So we “think globally and act locally”, we love our neighbors more deeply and we pray more intentionally.
If you and your family have started thinking about which non-profit and what kind of “compassion in action” you want to support during the coming holidays and before the year-end, will you PLEASE, PLEASE, include Trinity Center in your generosity? Please pray for our neighbors, please pray for an end to the pandemic, please pray for us, as well as with us. We love you deeply and we bow to you for your kind and generous hearts. Please stay safe and healthy during these times we find ourselves in.