Our goal is to organize and empower residents of the most underserved neighborhood in Austin to meet the many needs of its youth and families. We do this by developing and offering connections to and support for education, employment, physical and mental health services, personal safety, and hope for the future.
History of Our House
The densely populated East Riverside area of Austin, Texas is home to nearly 50,000 people living in less than 8 square miles. 90% live in low-rent apartments with an average 6-month rental contract and a 50% annual turnover.It has the highest rates of poverty, illiteracy, school dropout, unemployment, and crime in our city.The area was recently described by Austin’s chief of police as having an “inordinate amount of chronic violent crime against people and property.”
To help, the Our House non-profit was organized in 2015 by a group of pastors, counselors, and educators with experience working with offenders in Federal and State prisons.Learning from this that assistance needed to begin at an earlier age, we developed and offered programs out in the community.Our goal was for these underserved young people to grow up as free, educated, and well-adjusted citizens, and not flow aimlessly through the school-to-prison-pipeline into a tragic life of crime, incarceration, unemployment, and addiction like so many of their neighbors.
East Riverside has neither parks for recreation nor a community center to deliver programs.As a result, we began offering services from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. When it was sold and torn down to build a car wash, we moved to Parker Lane Methodist Church.After it, too, was sold and torn down to build yet another low rent apartment complex, we began offering programs at nearby Travis High School. The onset of COVID 19 forced an end to these large public gatherings.
During the pandemic, when life had to be lived remotely over the internet and telephone, we tried offering our services by Zoom.We found the results were not at all satisfactory.We discovered our most productive efforts during COVID resulted from the planning and organizing we did for when school, community meetings, and other important activities could eventually resume in person.
Now that the pandemic has abated, the Our House non-profit has taken a leadership role in developing a collaborative effort involving all its partner organizations in our Southeast Austin service area, including the Riverside Togetherness Project, Austin Police Department and its Office of Community Liaison, Austin Independent School District and their schools in our neighborhood, the East Riverside/Oltorf Combined contact team, River City Youth Foundation, and No More, No Mǎs.
Where once we had to maintain a physical location of our own to provide physical and mental health services when no other options existed, we are now able to refer needy people to newly developed public programs offering similar services provided by Community Care and Central Health.
We formerly held community gatherings in church facilities which are no longer standing, and now hold large events in community rooms in public buildings such as the Southeast Health and Wellness Center and at schools such as Linder Elementary and Travis Early College High School.Meanwhile, we continue to advocate for, plan, and promote construction of a dedicated new community center in which all these greatly needed events and meetings can be held in the future.
Most importantly, we have been developing a community organizing process with well-trained leaders and experienced volunteers. Since most of the residents we serve live in short term apartments and are just passing through, the neighborhood currently has no political power, no influence in the course of civic affairs, and no control over its own destiny.This most unfortunate situation must and will change.
Working together with all our companion groups, we have been holding regular Resource Fairs, where needy citizens can access the services they require to create and support better, healthier lives for themselves, their children, and their families.
Goals for Our House
§Help prepare the disadvantaged youth of East Riverside to lead useful and fulfilling lives through
completing their secondary education and finding employment paying a living wage.
§Organize our diverse community to develop competent local leadership and political power.
§Prevent violence against people and property through community-based crime reduction.
§Assure the availability of physical and mental health services for needy youths and families.
§Connect recently released ex-offenders returning to the community to reentry services.
§Provide referrals to immigration attorneys as needed for undocumented Hispanic residents.
§Actively promote social justice, fair play, and equitable treatment of all our neighbors.