HAYS COUNTY — As of January 2020 (pre-pandemic), Texas had an estimated 27,229 experiencing homelessness on any given day (U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness).
Hays County is no stranger to poverty. While most Hays County residents have access to shelter, there is a growing number of residents living in our community without reliable access to housing.
In a recent article on the relationship between food insecurity and housing instability (Lee et al., 2021), researchers found that families who experienced food insecurity were 62% more likely to experience housing instability. This could mean struggling to afford rent or mortgage each month, squeezing multiple households into a single household home, or being evicted. The article also notes that many organizations focus on either food insecurity or housing instability.
Anti-poverty programs need to work together to reduce these economic hardships on families. So how is your local food bank fighting to improve conditions for our unsheltered residents? Who else is making a difference among those experiencing housing instability?
Homeless Coalition of Hays County
Hays County Food Bank is a member of the Homeless Coalition of Hays County, a group of local organizations and individuals collaborating to reach functionally zero unhoused people and families in Hays County. This coalition advocates on behalf of those without shelter and raises awareness about the current needs of the unsheltered community.
Kitchen Not Required
Hays County Food Bank mindfully creates a variety of food bags loaded with shelf-stable, easy open, and no-kitchen required foods. Transitional Unsheltered Food (TUF) bags can be requested at our public food distributions. These bags include items that need no refrigeration like carrots, onions, potatoes, apples, and oranges, along with protein and bakery items upon availability. Visit haysfoodbank.org for the food distribution schedule or call (512)392-8300.
The food bank also works with the local Salvation Army, El Buen Pastor, and the HOME Center of Central Texas to help distribute smaller versions of these bags to those who need them most. TUF bags focus on shelf-stable items people without access to a kitchen can prepare.
Recently, First Presbyterian Church of San Marcos donated much needed funds and time to fill 300 commodity bags for our unsheltered community. Not only did they provide for the food, but they also packed socks, first aid kits, and uplifting messages. If you would like to schedule a collaboration like this, please contact our Community Relations Coordinator Iris Tate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food for the Temporarily Sheltered
February also marks the start of a brand new program where the food bank will deliver full-sized kitchen not required food bags to those seeking rental assistance that have been temporarily placed in local hotel/motel rooms. If you need help with temporary housing assistance, please reach out to the HOME Center (homecentertx.org), Southside Community Center (southsidecommunitycenter.org)
Hot Meals Daily
Southside Community Center provides hot meals, and those without shelter are invited to visit daily. Your local food bank provides recipe ingredients at no cost to this organization to aid in the preparation of these hot meals. Hot meals are served daily at 5 p.m. They also have a limited space for those seeking shelter. Visit southsidecommunitycenter.org for more information on their services.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Federal programs like SNAP also exist to assist those in need, but applying for benefits can be confusing. Hays County Food Bank can help through their resource assistance program. Schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable navigator. Call (512)392-8300 x225 or visit haysfoodbank.org/snap-
Disaster Weather and the Those Without Shelter
As everyone knows, the Texas weather has a mind of its own. Hays County has seen hard freezes, flooding, severe thunderstorms, and unyielding heat. All of these conditions are potentially deadly for those without a reliable shelter. Hays County Food Bank partners with San Marcos COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disasters) during emergency shelter events like these to provide food for snacks and meals for people housed in temporary shelters.
We’re all in this together, and when we work as a team, we can accomplish so much more good. If your organization wants to collaborate to fight food insecurity among the unsheltered, please email email@example.com.