AUSTIN, Texas - A coordinated food delivery program designed to meet the needs of the homeless population in the area has been started amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Eating Apart Together (EAT) is an initiative started by the City of Austin, Travis County, nonprofits and faith-based partners to help reach people experiencing homelessness with "critical nutrition during COVID-19."
According to a press release from the city, COVID-19 has created a changing food landscape that has impacted the entire Austin community, including the homeless population.
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“With social distancing, people aren’t sharing food or money out in the community or on street corners,” David Gomez, Program Manager for Homeless Services at Integral Care said. “Many of the food pantries have closed. And, for those with money, the stores they go to have limited supplies. Now more than ever, it’s important that we make sure our neighbors experiencing homelessness have enough food.”
On April 9, the Central Texas Food Bank supplied the city with shelf-stable, easy to open food. Packaging and distribution was then staged at the Austin Convention Center, where convention staff helped pack over 1,000 bags. The bags were then distributed to encampments outside of the "urban core."
“We are asking everyone to participate in the COVID-19 response, but those without homes have few resources and are at great risk in this crisis,” Vella Karman, City of Austin Interim Homeless Services Officer said. “Making food easily and reliably available will reduce the travel required to meet basic needs, creating less risk of spread across Austin.”
According to the city, the meal bags also served as a "distribution vehicle for health, hygiene, and educational materials," as the first bags that were distributed contained health information and a trash bag. The city says future bags will include protective face coverings, toilet paper, and hygiene packs.
"People needed more food and didn’t feel like they had a way to stay safe from COVID-19. That is where we saw we needed food, and if people don’t feel safe moving around, they need shelf-stable food so they can stay in one place to eat it,” Max Moscoe, TOOF Community Engagement Coordinator said.
Below is the schedule for getting bags between 9:00 a.m. and noon at Basic Needs Sites:
- Monday: Highway 71/Packsaddle Pass; Cesar Chavez/Pleasant Valley
- Tuesday: Highway 71/Burleson Road; Pleasant Valley/Riverside Drive; Little Walnut Creek Branch Library
- Wednesday: Slaughter & Menchaca; 183/Cameron Road
- Thursday: 183/Burnet Road; I-35/Airport; 7th Street and Gonzalez
- Friday: Ruiz Branch Library
The city is also looking to help those experiencing homelessness within the city's urban core. As many of the homeless community living outside of encampments may have issues storing food supplies, the city has developed a contract to provide a thousand refrigerated, ready-to-eat- meals a day.
The city says starting the week of April 20, these meals will bolster the supply of food served through existing programs at Central Presbyterian, Angel Housse, Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center, and Mobile Loaves and Fishes.
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