This letter came to me in response to what I had posted by Richard Troxell,
of House the Homeless. Tim League started the beloved Alamo Drafthouse…
Oct 30, 2009, at 1:01 AM, Tim League wrote:
Tim League here from Alamo Drafthouse. I just read your really extensive blog post regarding DAA, 6ixth Street Austin
and the issues involving the homeless in Austin. You have a lot of really good things to say in your article,
but I don’t think you are up to speed on all the things in which 6ixth Street Austin is engaged regarding the
homeless community in Austin. I just came on board as the chairman of 6ixth Street Austin last month,
and I can tell you that this issue is my top priority.
Our organization doesn’t have much money – we have a tiny “public improvement district” tax assessment
paid by Sixth Street property owners that is enough to fund one staff member and a couple tiny projects
throughout the year. The rest of the organization is comprised of volunteer labor, such as myself.
That said, among many of our projects, we are working towards solutions to homelessness.
6ixth Street Austin, for the past 8 months, has been spearheading meetings with downtown stakeholders:
social service providers, judges, police, business operators, property owners, city staff, city council, city
management, EMS, the churches, etc. This diverse group is developing strategies that
the city can adopt to help mitigate the plight of the homeless.
This process was also sponsored in City Council by Sheryl Cole who is on a mission
to improve the services for the homeless in Austin.
In the past couple of months, I’ve gone on a tour of the spectacular new $95 million dollar
“Haven for Hope” campus facility in San Antonio, had lunch with Bill Hobson, the director
of the Seattle “Housing First” projects including their groundbreaking wet-housing facility,
had lunch with Father Bill Wack who oversaw the Phoenix homeless mission and toured
several of the Green Doors facilities here in Austin. Tomorrow night, I’m meeting with
council-members Chris Riley and Laura Morrisson along with representatives from DANA,
DAA and Front Steps for a round-table “stew and cornbread” dinner at The ARCH
to talk about and debate a direction for Austin’s response to homelessness.
Anyhow, I just wanted you to know that 6ixth Street Austin and the DAA aren’t as
callous as your journal makes us sound. We are working very hard on the real issues
I know we don’t agree on the panhandling issue, and I’d love to chat with you
further about it and maybe present our side of the rationale behind the initiative,
and by our, I mean the unanimous support of the social service providers in downtown Austin,
not just 6ixth Street Austin. Even if we don’t eventually see eye to eye on the issue
of the anti-panhandling ordinance, I’d still like to work with you on the more important
issues on which we are working. Panhandling is a symptom, it’s not the cause, and I’d
frankly not like to get too bogged down in that one issue. The cause is Austin’s desperately
inadequate facilities, resources and housing.
I’d like to ask you to engage in our process. It sounds like you have a wealth of information
on the subject and would have a lot to contribute. I personally want to enact some real change
in Austin and get the city motivated to invest in housing and homeless resource facilities.
So you know, I wholeheartedly endorse the Habitat on Wheels project (and I think it has strong
support at the city too), I think we absolutely need a wet housing facility and we are GROSSLY
behind in all aspects of housing, treatment and training/resource facilities for the homeless.
Right now, there is strong support with many members of city council, and I think if we can
quickly get a unified plan of action, we may actually be able to get some real and tangible results soon.
I’ve rambled a bit, I know, but I wanted to:
1) ask you to be a part of the team that is working towards expanding homeless resource
facilities and housing solutions
2) let you know that Sixth Street Austin (and the DAA for that matter) has a lot of people
who care about this issue for the right reasons and are working to get political support to fund solutions
Please call my cell or drop me an email if you want to meet up and chat. I look forward to hearing from you!
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
On Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 9:30 AM, Sara Hickman wrote:
Thank you so very much for your thoughtful, lengthy, and engaging letter
concerning my blog post. First, I have to make one correction in that I did
not write that post. My dear friend, Richard Troxell of House the Homeless,
wrote the article, and I only posted it. I wish I was as eloquently supplied
with facts and figures as Richard (or you, for that matter!). I wanted
to post what Richard had sent to me, which also I forwarded on to the
Austin Music Commission, because Richard sent it to
me after Bill Brice (DAA) had visited one of our AMC meetings.
(You should also know I have since resigned my position with AMC
as I felt I’ve just got too much going on in my world and needed to
pare back to what is essential.)
Several months ago, I had approached Councilwoman Laura Morrison,
who appointed me to the Austin Music Commission, about
being involved on a commission that was concerned with the homeless
problems in Austin. I am, as you stated, serious about finding solutions and helping those
who are living on the streets—whether it is a living wage, a home, rehabilitative services
or furthering education, or all combined—as I felt I wasn’t of much service on the
Austin Music Commission, although everyone on that board is working hard on music
related issues and incredibly intelligent.
I wish I could meet with you tonight at your round table, but I’m a mom, so being as it
is Halloween night, I will not be able to come to this gathering, but if you would like to mention
to Laura that I am still interested in some sort of involvement, you are welcome
to remind her, and perhaps, I can get involved with you all at some level/become a part of your team.
I think it is an amazing testament to your desire to create change that you have toured
so many facilities. I was recently in Ft. Worth, where I performed at three facilities there.
Having been involved in speaking out about homelessness for over 20 years, I am still
shocked at the rising numbers of those displaced—mix population growths, new
developments razing older neighborhoods, poor education, drug rise, lack of family
planning/education, etc—and the numbers are staggering. That said, I am not set in
stone about panhandling, or any issue to do with homelessness; I am open to dialogue
and continuing to educate myself about the different aspects/positions concerning
key ways to change/handle this growing epidemic.
In regards to DAA, I was only passionate in that Bill Brice understand the difference
between “panhandling” and busking/musicians. When he came to visit us at AMC,
he had nothing written within the papers he presented (that he had also been sharing
with Mayor Lee Leffingwell), and that was my job, to point issues like this out so that
nothing is written into local law without complete definition.
Anyway, I am honored you took the time to write. If you would like me to post your letter,
here, on my blog, I am happy to counterbalance what Richard wrote. I try to engage people
via my blog (and also “Startthedialogue.com“, where we discuss the death penalty, family matters,
issues of the day)….as that is the most I can hope to accomplish in an era over inundated
with information and distractions.
I would enjoy meeting with you, Sheryl Cole, Laura Morrison, whomever. I realize
I don’t have any power, but I can continue to learn and share what I learn at my
shows and on my sites so that, hopefully, we CAN create a healthier world
for all of Austin’s citizens.
In Grace and Gratitude,