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Austin philanthropists donate $2M to improve the health of homeless population

“At one time in my life I was homeless; I know what it's like,” said DeJoria, who lived in his car while building his business. “The American dream happened for me."

AUSTIN, Texas — People experiencing homelessness in Austin will now get ongoing healthcare support through the University of Texas Dell Medical School

UT announced Tuesday that Austin philanthropists John Paul DeJoria, Eloise DeJoria and their family foundation donated $2 million "to create an endowment that will provide ongoing support for Dell Med’s faculty leader and programs improving health for people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, as well as other vulnerable populations."

Assistant Professor of Population Health and Internal Medicine Tim Mercer, M.D., will lead the university's work with the healthcare initiative. Mercer and the program look to develop long-term, sustainable approaches to caring for Austinites experiencing homelessness in partnership with CommUnityCare Health Centers and Integral Care. He already practices as a primary care physician for CommUnityCare’s Health Care for the homeless program, according to UT.

Credit: University of Texas
Credit: University of Texas

“People experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations require innovative care models to address their health and social needs,” Mercer said. “JP and his family get this, and we are so humbled and grateful for their support. This endowment will allow Dell Med to make a permanent commitment to taking responsibility for the health and well-being of this population in our community.”

DeJoria's $2 million gift to UT comes from an inspired place in his heart and trialed past. 

“At one time in my life I was homeless; I know what it's like,” said DeJoria, who lived in his car while building his business. “The American dream happened for me. True success is doing something for someone else and asking nothing in return – success unshared is failure. My family and I wanted to invest in a permanent position to help people in need, and UT and Dr. Tim Mercer are the perfect partner for this.”

The DeJoria family foundation had previously given gifts of $100,000 and $250,000 to UT's Dell Medical School to support health care for people experiencing homelessness, including COVID-19 treatment, testing and contact tracing, UT officials said. The foundation also donated 20,000 surgical masks and 1,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to aid mobile testing teams caring for Austin's homeless population, as well as meals for vaccination staff at UT Health Austin.

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