Out of the total homeless population in Austin, 32 percent are chronically homeless, according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. A group of students started taking steps to lower that statistic at the first Austin’s Bright Future general meeting on Wednesday evening.
Austin’s Bright Future, a new student organization created by mechanical engineering freshman Areej Ahmad, aims to help the homeless population near campus by collecting food, hygiene products and clothes, and holding resume workshops. ABF president Ahmad said they also have several long-term goals, such as lowering the bus fares, creating storage for belongings, providing shower facilities and promoting mental health outreach.
“You can’t wait for change to happen,” Ahmad said. “People hate change when it doesn’t benefit themselves.”
The club, which already has about 100 members, will have several committees responsible for different projects. Those in committees which give out donations will directly approach the homeless to give them the items. The new club also plans to partner with established organizations such as Front Steps, a nonprofit organization located in downtown Austin that serves 400 to 500 homeless men and women everyday, according to a 2017 press release.
“We could all donate money,” said Fatimah Sunez, public health freshman and club historian. “Talking to the homeless people and hearing their stories and really understanding what they’re going through is something different.”
Samantha Diwa, a radio-television-film freshman said her parents told her to be careful on the streets alone, making her initially hesitant to actually help the homeless.
“No matter where we are, at home or in Austin or in another city, we know it is always a problem,” Diwa said. “I’m really excited to work as a group and meet other people, because it will give me confidence to give resources to people who really need it.”
Ahmad said people are taught to make the best of their own lives instead of putting effort into thinking of others, and said if people changed their mindset, no one would be unwillingly homeless.
“The people that can help are typically born in a cycle of selfishness that they sometimes can’t get out of,” Ahmad said. “It definitely takes a lot of strength to go against how society raises you. Once you put your foot in the door, it becomes easier to find that strength whenever you need it.”