Recently at the SXSW festival, a film that documents East Austin's first and only emergency homeless shelter for both immigrants and those seeking asylum, regardless of whether they're documented or undocumented, made its official debut.
The film, which is titled “They Live Here, Now,” made its debut this past Sunday afternoon at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, with additional screenings to follow later on this coming week.
“They Live Here, Now” tells the story of a teenage girl from Mexico whose brother was tragically murdered by members of a gang. After making her way to the United States, she finds herself at Casa Marianella, the aforementioned emergency homeless shelter. Through this, the audience is able to meet the real-life occupants of the shelter, as well as see what typically goes on in their daily lives.
Thanks to the film, the audience will be able to see exactly how the shelter's residents do many things, such as assist one another with daily tasks, building up a fellowship with each other, and even take classes to learn English. Refugees from locations such as Somalia and Iraq are featured, and all share their own unique stories of forgiveness, acceptance, and having the chance to start a brand new life in the United States.
Casa Marianella has been in operation since 1986 and has seen many individuals pass through it, such as Salvadoran war survivors and many different immigrants and refugees from approximately 40 countries. Additionally, the shelter also offers various resources of both legal and medical natures, and back in 2003, the shelter opened a separate branch known as Posada Esperanza, which is exclusively for both women and children. Currently, Casa Marianella operates 13 different homes which serve more than 300 people on an annual basis.
It’s no secret that Austin has been trying to increase their effort towards helping homeless individuals get off the street and to a better place in their lives. Homelessness in Austin is an increasingly pressing issue, and in 2018 there were approximately 2,147 homeless people living in the city, and increase by more than 100 people from the year before.
Austin has been trying to address the homelessness issue in Austin for years with lackluster results, not for the lack of trying. The city is now shifting their focus away from managing the issue, and are focusing more on solving it, which is where the Austin Homelessness Advisory Group is showing to be an integral part to that effort.
The Austin City Council has officially approved the purchase of a $8.6 million property located in South Austin to house a new homeless shelter.
The shelter, which will be located just off Ben White Boulevard, will be constructed inside an already-existing building and marks the latest effort from the city to help assist the people of Austin who are directly affected by homelessness. This includes the goal of constructing shelters in all ten City Council Districts.
On Thursday, June 20th the City of Austin approved an ordinance that would amend the city’s codes on camping in public areas, solicitation, sitting or lying down on public sidewalks and camping in downtown Austin.
Under the new ordinance, according to KXAN, the Austin Police Department will not be allowed to give our tickets or arrest homeless individuals who are soliciting, camping, sitting or lying in a public space in Austin unless they are causing a public health or safety hazard. An offense would only qualify for an arrest or ticket if they’re endangering the health and safety someone else or if they’re “intentionally making a public area impassable or unsable”.