Most people in Austin know about ARCH, the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. We see men and women gathered around 7th street, but we many not realize that more than 500 people a day utilize the services available at ARCH, or that Front Steps is the charity that not only manages ARCH but also provides transitional services, recuperative care, and basic needs assistance to those in need here in Central Texas.
I first became aware of Front Steps in 2009 when I completed a grant-writing project with them. I was overwhelmed with the kindness and patience of their staff, who handled situations with finesse that would have prompted me to pull my hair out.
When we think about the homeless, it is often in passing, and usually in general terms. We know they need food and shelter, occasional laundry service, and if possible, job training and placement. What is easily forgotten or overlooked is the need for health care, medical attention, and therapies designed to keep their case management on track. Front Steps has paved the way, through collaborations with St. David’s and Seton Foundations, to meet the medical needs of the homeless beyond a simple emergency room visit. Here are some great examples of their success stories.
When we look at the homeless person standing with a sign at a downtown intersection, we don’t often ponder his or her family situation. Is there a sibling or parent looking for this person? Does the family know he or she is in Austin? Part of the holistic approach taken by Front Steps is a document bank, identification program, and even a discretionary funds program for special circumstances.
While Front Steps manages ARCH an the Recuperative Care program, they also handle case management programs, designed to bring the homeless into an environment where they can obtain homefulness and basic skills and training necessary to sustain their success. Self-care skills and ongoing support continue through support sessions, educational classes, and more. These comprehensive programs allow Front Steps to move people from the streets and into homes.
Recently, Front Steps received a grant to initiate the “Keep Austin Housed” Americorps program, helping to reduce homelessness in Austin and Travis County.
Want to get involved? Front Steps maintains a great website offering different ways to responsibly donate and participate in their programs, and Dawn Perkins, their current volunteer coordinator, is terrific and can help support prospective volunteers learn the ropes.
For anyone passionate about relieving homelessness and gaining awareness about homelessness as an issue in Central Texas, I recommend visiting ARCH and working with Front Steps.