Last Thursday, THN hosted this year’s Homelessness Awareness Day at the Texas State Capitol building.  Around 40 participating homeless service providers from all over the state of Texas converged on Austin to meet with their representative members of congress to advocate for the men, women, and children who experience homelessness in their communities.  At the scheduled appointments, advocates discussed a wide variety of topics, ranging from source of income discrimination to Medicaid expansion.

THN is proud to announce that this year’s event was the most successful Homelessness Awareness Day to date.  The participating homeless service providers’ impassioned commitment to supporting Texas’ most vulnerable populations was more than inspiring.  Thanks to the important feedback collected after the event, THN predicts that the next Homelessness Awareness Day will provide even more impact.         

Carpenter's Church in Lubbock produced a great video on Housing First as an end to chonic homelessness. 

On Friday, February 6th, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced plans to expand funds available for affordable housing and infrastructural improvements in the United States’ colonias. A piece of President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2016, the motion allows states along the U.S.-Mexico border to allocate up to 15 percent of their Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for projects focused on the colonias. Previously, these states were only authorized to direct 10 percent of CDBG funds toward colonia programs.

This is amazing news for Texas, and the residents of the state’s 2,000 colonias. In 2014, Texas appropriated $6.1 million for colonia improvements, with an additional $1.5 million for the local Colonia Self-Help Centers. By increasing the percentage of CDBG funding available for colonia improvements, more development projects can be designed and implemented in the Rio Grande Valley. This change would undoubtedly bring relief to a greater number of the area’s most vulnerable populations, who often deal with unsafe housing, improper sewage systems, and a lack of street lighting.

For more information regarding this landmark decision, click here.


Last week, at a grand announcement introduced by Governor-elect Greg Abbott, the United Health Foundation awarded $2.88 million dollars to The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.  The funds were allocated to expand the University’s developing Colonia Integrated Care Program: VIDAS (Valley Interprofessional Development And Services).  The Colonia Integrated Care Program aims to stream-line regional health care delivery services in order to better connect low income families to the region’s resources.  The specific services of the program will include upgrading available medical screenings, health education, and dental and mental health services.  Further, the new program will also focus on standardizing the training practices of regional promotoras (local instructors who provide community health education). 

The United Health Foundation grant marks an impressive step forward in improving the health of one of the sickest and most under-insured populations in Texas.  Although it is well known that the area’s high rates of preventable diseases create a major financial burden for local taxpayers, little progress has been made in curbing the rampant crisis.  Expanding knowledge of healthy living practices and access to medical resources with the Colonia Integrated Health Program will undoubtedly bring relief for many low income families.

That being said, this investment will not resolve all of the health issues that are distressingly pervasive throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  Rehabilitating substandard housing, expanding health care coverage, and circulating health education are only a few of the pieces that are needed to improve the quality of life in the area long-term.  Only with a targeted, cohesive development strategy is holistic health reform possible in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.      


By Kraig Fiero

Throughout Texas, there are people doing amazing things to help prevent and end homelessness. Homeless Coalitions have the difficult task of staying on top of new regulations and information as well as getting busy service providers to meet on a regular basis. For the month of January, THN would like to showcase one such coalition.

The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition has been working diligently for the past 30 years to bring awareness to their community. 

The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition was formed in 1985 by a group of concerned citizens and is a volunteer-run non-profit organization.  Members include non-profits, churches, businesses and individuals dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness in the Victoria area. This group not only oversees Victoria county but helps six other counties in Texas, including Goliad, DeWitt, Gonzales, Lavaca, Calhoun and Jackson.

Victoria Photo

L to R: Gary Moses, Tyler Warner, Christine Krause, Carol Ayala, Jane Bernal and son

The newly elected Officers for the Board's next two-year term are:

Kim Pickens - President
Arturo Lara - Vice President
Amy Hatmaker - Treasurer
Johanna Rohan - Secretary

This past November the coalition held a number of events during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and offereds service opportunities at their  partner organizations. The week kicked off with a food drive benefiting the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent and ended with a luncheon with invited speaker, Alan Graham of Austin's Mobile Loaves and Fishes. 

“We have a lot of work ahead of us regarding Affordable Housing, but we have a lot of people who are interested in making a difference!” ~ Kim Pickens, President

Victoria Photo2

Jodi Sandoval in front of the Feeding America truck

To find out more information or to get involved with this Coalition; you can contact:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vahctx

Twitter: @endpovertyvahc