In our initial encampment outreach, our most common finding was that people felt directionless and disempowered to connect with their community during the day, while waiting to get into shelters or access other services. This gave way to our Workforce First Program, which offers unhoused people an extremely low barrier opportunity to get a day’s work. The dignity and empowerment of working in a group setting and giving back to your community, complimented by income and case management, serves as a major stepping stone to getting our homeless friends on the path to a more fulfilling life.
When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, we rolled out our second major program, the Mobile Hygiene Clinic. What started as one shower trailer (affectionately named the “Box of Rain”) going around town delivering showers, toiletries, and lunches, has now grown to include several permanent locations as well. So far, we have provided over 25,000 showers from our trailers!
As the COVID pandemic rolled along, we saw a humanitarian disaster beginning to emerge in East Austin: A State-sanctioned encampment was desperately in need of service provision and coordination. After talking with the State, TOOF was able to step up and fill that role. We arrived on-site and began a needs assessment and interview process with the people staying there in August 2020.
With some help from TOOF, residents of the encampment elected a Leadership Committee of people staying on-site, and voted to name the site the Esperanza Community. As we completed our needs assessment and resident interviews, it became clear that TOOF needed to implement physical shelter structures for Esperanza. TOOF, the Esperanza Leadership Committee, Esperanza residents, and community partners swiftly began working on a plan to develop the site into a dignified and transformational shelter complex.
Winter Storm Uri devastated TX, and the unhoused population was hit particularly hard. TOOF provided emergency response all around the city. Our fresh water tanker delivered thousands of gallons of water to emergency food preparation sites. In partnership with a massive collective of autonomous groups, we worked to transport 1000+ people into hotels and warming centers to brave the storm. TOOF ran two warming centers at the Esperanza Community for 24 hours a day over six days and facilitated emergency food access on site.
You can be a part of TOOF's story! CLICK HERE to learn about how to get involved now, and offer shelter, opportunity, and support to our unhoused neighbors.