In the blistering hot, drought-ridden summer of 2011, I relocated from New York City to Austin, Texas. In New York, I had worked as the Director of Social Services at a municipal homeless shelter that housed 202 single male substance abusers. There was never a dull moment in that job! The shelter provided basic needs to 202 single men, and was much appreciated.
I want to tell you a story not just about one of our properties, but about the tenacity of our staff and their dedication to our residents and community. When we first came to Pecan Springs Commons, it was a hotbed of criminal activity, a place no one felt safe. So in addition to renovating the buildings, we had to renovate the community. Our Deputy Director, Christa Noland, had a fence built between two properties that for decades served as the drug dealers’ path into the neighborhood cul-de-sac.
Overnight, the fence was torn down. The next morning, our Maintenance Manager repaired it. The next night the fence was torn down again. The following morning, he rebuilt it again.
They’d pull it down by hand. They’d attach it to a car with chains and drive away. They’d cut it with a saw. And every time they did, we rebuilt it. Immediately.
Our staff began to feel that if we could get the fence to stay up, we would win.
Victor Nelms’ apartment is perfectly neat. His kitchen is spotless. He has a firm handshake and looks you in the eye when he says hello. And he uses your name when he speaks, like he’s known you for years. You’d never know that he was living on the streets four years ago. Or that he was addicted to crack for most of his adult life and wasted a career in the Army getting high. But it doesn’t take long for him to tell you all about it.
Scott Clapper is many things. A collector, folk artist, and inventor, Scott first came to Green Doors as a disabled veteran struggling to keep a roof over his head. Today, he lives in a meticulously kept one-bedroom apartment at Pecan Springs Commons, the walls lined with shelves featuring an extensive mineral collection.
When Green Doors resident Lewis Stennis came home from his deployment in Iraq in 2009, he found himself homeless at 21. Despite the challenges he faced, including brain injuries sustained from combat, the now 24-year-old has fought his way to college. Click through to read one soldier’s inspiring story…
The true beauty of a community garden lies within its very name: community. The act of gardening with your neighbors not only provides food and beauty, it also provides a sense of fellowship and well-being that is so integral to a healthy community.
Photographer, digital artist, illustrator, and budding screenwriter, Green Doors resident Rodney Barry says his work can be summed up by the web domain he’s chosen to host his work in the near future: ”MashedPoop.com,” he says, laughing. “It stands for monsters, aliens, super heroes, and plain old ordinary people. Those are the subjects that interest me most.”
Here at Green Doors, we are proud to count numerous talented artists among our residents. In our new blog series, Artist Spotlight, we will share with you the vibrant work of these artists who we are so lucky to know.
As one of the several new faces at Green Doors, I’ve had many opportunities to learn about issues related to homelessness in Austin over the past few months and apply them to my work. So naturally, when the opportunity came about to spend some time working at our weekly food pantry, I jumped at the chance, knowing that I would learn something new that I could use in my role as a development associate.
Before I delve into my specific impressions about this experience, let me begin by letting you know something about me. Prior to joining Green Doors, I had very little knowledge about how serious the homeless issue is in Central Texas and its debilitating effects on an individual. Beyond that, I knew even less about the multiple underlying issues that can lead to someone becoming homeless, and how most of us are just one missed paycheck away from becoming homeless too. As a father and husband, I definitely sympathize with the parents in our program who have experienced the stress and heartbreak related to homelessness and poverty. Without question, my short time here at Green Doors has opened my eyes to some things I’d barely considered before.