AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hundreds of people spent their Thanksgiving morning delivering turkey, stuffing and sides to people who live alone, live with disabilities or are battling illness.
Meals on Wheels Central Texas had 150 volunteers serve nearly 500 clients. Among the volunteers were Governor Greg Abbott and beloved Austinite Matthew McConaughey.
“We got our kiddos. We got some friends’ kiddos with us,” said McConaughey. “It’s nice to go in our backyard here in Austin. Deliver some meals to people who can’t cook for themselves. A lot of them we’ve met before. They don’t have family around here any more. Or their family is in a different state, so they’re sitting at home alone today.”
Jesse Washington who lives in east Austin received a meal from Gov. Abbott. “I’m a cancer thriver,” he said.
Washington told KXAN he’s battling breast cancer, which is rare in men, but even more rare in African American men.
“When I was first told, I got involved and did all the research. Everything doctors said was for women. There’s no research, no information for the men, so I’ve had to negotiate that,” he explained.
After delivering meals to Washington and others, Gov. Abbott went to a homeless camp near U.S. 183 and Montopolis Drive in southeast Austin.
About a month ago, he ordered the state Department of Transportation to clean out homeless camps from underpasses and offered up the state-owned land as an alternate place for people to stay.
“This is one of several transition strategies to make sure that this community is doing more to better provide a life of dignity for those that are homeless,” he said about the camp.
The camp opened about a month ago. When KXAN went on that first day, only two people had made their way over to the site, but Thursday, every single garage bay had people living in them.
“It’s a little community here. This is a little community,” said Robert Rhodes.
He and others we spoke with said they feel safer there than downtown.
“We got covers and everything. Plus, we got some security here with the troopers coming in, watching over us 24/7, which is awesome,” said Rhodes.
Blake Moore who said he became homeless after losing his job, told KXAN “I came in. It was real welcoming. They gave us sleeping bags to keep warm. Gloves. It’s been real nice.”
The governor said this is a strategy that’s working.
“There were daily complaints about people being physically assaulted, and those complaints have seem to have gone down dramatically,” he said. “What we need to understand is this is just one component of an overall strategy with the end strategy of providing a more permanent setting for those that are homeless, but also to put them back on a pathway toward productivity.”
Abbott acknowledged the city buying a motel and converting it to a shelter is also helpful, as well as the Austin Chamber’s plans for a temporary shelter.
Rhodes and Moore both said still, more could be done to help. They said easier access to mental health counseling and bus passes would be helpful.