AUSTIN, Texas (July 2, 2021) – When Austin pledged in 2018 to end youth homelessness, LifeWorks, a nonprofit dedicated to the needs of youth and young adults, stepped in to lead the charge.
“We have said to young people in Austin that this is what we’re committing to,” says LifeWorks’ Senior Division Director of Housing Erin Whelan. “And so we don’t take that lightly.”
Hundreds of housing placements later, LifeWorks remains Fiercely Focused on ending homelessness.
Through a combination of street outreach, emergency shelter, diversion, transitional housing, Permanent Supportive Housing, and Rapid Re-Housing, LifeWorks and other community partners have connected 835 young people to permanent housing since the start of the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project.
LifeWorks uses a Housing First model to quickly connect people to housing and following up with case management and supportive services. “It’s not just the roof over your head, but also all of those wraparound supports that are needed in order to maintain housing and make sure that that individual is successful,” Whelan says.
Dylan Pitman has been a case manager with LifeWorks for about a year and a half, and he says while the employment and counseling services the organization offers are important, housing is “a big step in the right direction.”
“Just putting someone in an apartment, obviously, it’s not like the magical cure,” Pitman says. “But housing is, I think, just the biggest step you can take in that direction.”
Donyea, a young mother of an almost-2-year-old, was one of Pitman’s early clients. Donyea and her son had been living in a hotel, and then in their car outside Wal-Mart once they ran out of money to pay for a room.
“Once I finally got into the LifeWorks system and Dylan was like, ‘We got this,’ like, just those words, they went a long way with me,” Donyea says. “And I’m like, ‘OK, we got this.'”
The two worked together to find an apartment through the Rapid Re-Housing program, in which young people sign their own leases and receive rental aid from LifeWorks along with case management and supportive services. In June, Donyea and her son moved to a new apartment where they finally feel like home.
“LifeWorks is a stepping stone,” she says, “and it’s a great force to push you forward.”
Watch the video above or on ECHO’s YouTube channel to learn more about how LifeWorks is Fiercely Focused on ending homelessness.