Homelessness is on the rise in Austin, Texas. In 2018, more than 7,000 people experienced homeless in Austin, according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO). On any given day there are over 2,000 individuals living in shelters or unsheltered — a number that’s risen nearly 5% between 2018 and 2019.
But building a community can play an important role in supporting individuals experiencing homelessness. Since 1990, Art from the Streets has been doing exactly that.
The organization helps the housing insecure find a greater sense of stability through art. Three times a week, individuals gather at a local Austin church where they can paint for free during an open studio session. There, artists have a refuge from life on the streets while also building a greater sense of community.
“We create a place of safety for people who are on the street to be able to come inside to just be, and be supported to create,” co-founder Heloise Gold told NationSwell. “I don’t refer to this as ‘art therapy’ per se, but it is very therapeutic.”
Art from the Streets also helps its artists get paid for their work. For the past 27 years, it’s hosted an end-of-year show and sale where artists are able to sell their original pieces for 95% of the profits. In more recent years, Art from the Streets has opened an online store to sell reprints and merchandise. Artists earn 60% of the proceeds from reprints, while the remaining 40% goes to support the organization.
Though the sale of artwork is important, Gold maintains that it’s the sense of community instilled that drives Art from the Streets’ mission.
“The heart of the program and what I was wanting in the beginning, that essence is still apart of this program,” said Gold. “We really want people to be apart of the community and to be influenced by each other.”