Center Serves the Homeless in Downtown Austin, Texas

In the shadow of downtown Austin’s skyscrapers, a new three-story white stone building occupies the corner of Trinity and 7th Street.  Nestled against historic St. David’s Episcopal Church, the new parish hall includes offices, kitchens, a preschool, meeting rooms and worship space for youth and adults.  The ground floor – 3500 square feet – houses Trinity Center, a ministry to the homeless.

During the 1960’s, when many downtown congregations were moving to the suburbs, the people of St. David’s made a commitment to remain in the inner city and provide a spiritual home to an increasingly diverse population.  As part of that vision, the church determined to provide not only spiritual, but also physical and emotional support to the individuals and families who were hungry or homeless.

From that commitment grew the Trinity Streets mission, which hosted worship services and provided meals and small grants to about 120 homeless parishioners every week.

Trinity Streets operated in space provided by other nearby agencies such as the Salvation Army and Caritas, coordinating with them to avoid duplication of services.

The vision expanded in 1995, when Board Chairman Doug Bell attended a Diocesan Conference in Houston, and was inspired by that city’s Lord of the Streets program.  In 2000, Trinity Center was officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3) corporation.

St. David’s has donated the space for Trinity Center.  Half of a $100,000 bequest from the estate of the late Barbara Jordan has been used to begin the interior build-out, and the remaining $50,000 will support operation of the program.

Through services donated by Coleman and Associates, new grants will enable Trinity Center to serve many more clients and expand its services.  Plans for the future include a medical referral clinic, and expanded recreational and educational programs.

Trinity Center is staffed by volunteers.  A part-time chaplain, Kern Huff, conducts worship services and provides pastoral counseling.  The congregation includes men, women, and families.  Some of them have work, but all live in extreme poverty.

Both volunteers and clients say Trinity Center has enriched their lives.  There is a strong spirit of community.  Huff has conducted several baptisms and blessed a marriage.

Doug Bell says, “The greatest satisfaction I get from Trinity Center is meeting our neighbors face-to-face. Sometimes their stories are very sad, but sometimes they are joyful.  I often meet people who are just happy to be alive. They have daily struggles just like us.  They have hopes and dreams just like us.  They get discouraged just like us.  Their faith sustains them just like us. We accept them for who they are, and we make them feel welcome.  That is our mission in downtown Austin.”

By Jillian Coleman Wheeler

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