Cities should follow Austin’s lead in helping homeless

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    Austin is taking care of its homeless, or at least trying to.

    Alan Graham, founder and president of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, wants to create an RV park to house 150 to 175 people who are chronically homeless, or people who have been homeless for more than a year.

    Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a nonprofit organization, was started 10 years ago to provide meals for homeless people in Austin. Graham is now trying to build a community for the homeless population “to restore their dignity” and give them a place to “rediscover a purpose in their lives,” according to an article in the Austin-American Statesman.

    “Park Place Village” would be a gated community with 100 RVs and 50 cottages with a central restroom, laundry facilities, a main lodge and a chapel.

    Residents would rent the RVs and cottages for $100 to $375 a month, which would also include electricity, water and TV services.

    Austin has about 4,000 to 6,000 homeless people, and about 600 of them are considered chronically homeless, according to the article.

    Volunteers would mentor the residents, teach them any job skills they need and spend time with them. There would also be case managers available to help them gain access to drug counseling and job training.

    The city is even showing interest in the idea.

    On Thursday, the Austin City Council agreed to lease city-owned land in East Austin to Graham for the park. Although the details have not been decided, it would probably include a long-term lease for a small fee, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

    Giving homeless people a community of support and understanding is far better and more effective than simply imposing stricter panhandling laws. It would not only give them a home, but also help them shift into more stable lives.

    More cities should take responsibility for their homeless and implement programs like this instead of casting them aside.

    In a 2005 USA Today article that ranked cities with the highest homeless populations, Dallas was No. 16 with an estimate of 5,898 and Fort Worth was close behind as No. 20 with an estimate of 5,278 homeless people.

    This needs to change.

    I can only hope Graham’s vision will become a reality, be successful and even catch on in other cities with high homeless populations, such as Fort Worth. But at least he is trying to make a positive change and help others. The world needs more people in the world who are at least willing to try.

    Elizabeth Davidson is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Austin.