One nonprofit organization in Austin, Texas is the force behind coordinating the city’s homelessness response system in an effort for positive change. The Other Ones Foundation (OOF) is providing “low barrier employment” paired with case management in “transitioning Austin’s homeless neighbors into an engaged community through shelter, opportunity, and support,” according to the organization’s website.
“We believe in the extraordinary value of every human life, and that everyone deserves to be fulfilled.”
OOF is a multi-agency work group that provides the resources necessary to find housing and income to individuals in Austin who might be experiencing homelessness. The organization’s “first big idea” was a fleet of homeless shelters called the Mobile Micro Shelter. While this idea to provide safe homeless shelters in ever-changing locations is still in the works, one program developed by OOF that came to fruition is helping to serve the homeless community in Austin with earned income. Workforce First Program offers the homeless an opportunity to earn an income at $15 an hour including lunch and round trip transportation and focuses on environmental cleanup—some jobs include covering up graffiti as well as cleaning city streets, parks and homeless camps.
“This program is playing a critical role in our city’s coordinated homelessness response system, not just by getting people off of street corners and onto job sites, but by instilling in them a sense of hope, dignity, and self-worth that’s often lost in the chaos and isolation of the streets,” Chris Baker, OOF’s executive director, said.
Workforce First partners with organizations as well as conducting it’s own outreach to help identify eligible workers who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness and are at least 18 years of age. Pay is distributed at the end of every work day.
To date, the program has paid out over $100,000 in earned income and helped 24 individuals experiencing homelessness secure stable housing.
“This is not only about people earning a dignified income; it’s about being a force for positive change in the lives of our homeless neighbors,” Baker said. “By offering the opportunity to be of service to their community, we see them becoming engaged and proud members of that community.”
With OOF’s goal is to help individuals find permanent housing and financial stability, the company’s headquarters serves as a drop-in center for anyone experiencing homelessness in the great Austin area to have access to food, water, showers, laundry facilities, computers with free internet and day sleep facilities.
“We’re all about the marginalized. The vulnerable. Those ‘other ones’ out there living on the fringes.”