Grand opening for youth affordable housing in east Austin

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Works II, a second affordable housing option for youth and young families from LifeWorks, held its grand opening Tuesday morning in east Austin.

LifeWorks is an organization dedicated to supporting youth and families, with a goal of ending youth homelessness in Austin by the end of this year. This new, 29-unit building is part of reaching that goal – bringing their total number to 74.

There are two bedroom, one bedroom and efficiency units to fit the needs of each individual client. Their stay can range from one to two years, or even longer if that’s what they need to get on their feet.

Where do homeless youth come from?

Franklin Fisher is a product of hoe family conflict leading to homelessness. He never felt safe or comfortable with his mother and father. So he jumped from Nevada to Ohio to Kentucky to Mississippi then to Texas – living with relatives and family friends.

“Sleeping under bridges. Sleeping on steps to libraries and such,” said Fisher.

At 18 he had nowhere else to go and was homeless until he began a program at the non-profit LifeWorks. He’s come a long way.

“There was no stability at all. I would literally see family members you know, and people I knew from school walking by each day and didn’t say a thing. Didn’t look at me. It’s a very traumatizing experience to feel like you’re worthless. Less than human,” said Fisher.

The public social safety net runs out when many become legal adults.

“At the age of 18 they’re on their own. They don’t have a family support network. Many of them have not completed a high school or GED yet and most of them are really suffering from some form of trauma,” said LifeWorks CEO, Susan McDowell. She says 76 percent of homeless youngsters in Travis County left Foster Care or the Juvenile Justice System.

“Often it’s not enough for you or they need it longer term. So that’s where we can really come in,” said McDowell.

LifeWorks has 29 more beds but more will be needed as Austin grows and homes becomes less affordable. The good news is: Franklin says the programs can work.

“What I can say is I definitely feel like I’ve grown and become a person that I’m proud to be today,” said Fisher.

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