AUSTIN — At last count, there are more than 2,000 people who are experiencing homelessness in the Austin-Travis County area on any given night. That’s according to Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO, which also said that's a five percent increase from last year.
"Folks that don't have a place to call home have all these barriers that prevent them from going and being able to find employment or find housing,” said Chris Baker, director of The Other Ones Foundation.
It’s something he knows well.
"I'm a recovering drug addict, I've been homeless, I've been on the street, I've had to panhandle, so I know what that feels like,” said Baker.
Their new pilot program, Workforce First, will offer those who are experiencing homelessness a day labor job in an Austin park.
"We go out in the community, find people that might otherwise be flying a sign on the corner and give them the opportunity to go and work to earn money,” said Baker.
For five hours of work, the program will provide transportation, lunch and a payout of $75 cash.
"Often, employment is a thing that's off in the future somewhere, and this is immediate, this is right now. Today, we can get you to work with no questions asked more or less," said Baker.
Baker said they'll also try to connect them with services that offer things like a place to shower or get an ID.
"One of the big ways that we're going to impact these folks is giving them opportunity and dignity,” said Baker.
It's all part of an effort to break down some of those barriers.
“For a lot of these people, they don't need a whole lot more than just a nudge to get back to a point where they're engaged in their community, where they're on a road to stable income and stable housing,” said Baker.
If you want to join the program, Baker said they will host events at Sunrise Church from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 5 and 12.
If you want to learn more about the organization or donate, you can go here.