LHHS 2000 grad Daniel Roby is CEO of Austin Street Center

Lake Highlands High graduate Daniel Roby took his first two homeless fellows in off the streets while he was still an undergraduate at Baylor University.

“I actually lived in a four bedroom house with twelve male roommates during college,” Roby told Dallas Doing Good, “and then we invited two homeless guys to come live with us and sleep on the couch. We had a 50% success rate from that.”

Since those days in 2004, Roby has become more sophisticated in his quest to find shelter, showers, clothing and meals for men and women in Dallas. In 2015, he took on leadership of Austin Street Center, the city’s largest low-barrier shelter. Last week, he announced a $15 million capital campaign to build the Austin Street Center for Community Engagement between downtown and Fair Park.

The new 2.3-acre campus, located across the street from Austin Street’s current site, will ease the transition toward permanent housing for Dallas’ growing homeless population and create space for expanded programs like medical respite care, mental health care, personalized case management and job assistance. Best of all, Roby’s team has already raised $11.4 million toward their goal.

“Austin Street Center has served the City of Dallas and our neighbors experiencing homelessness for more than 30 years,” said Roby. “Over the years the number of people we serve has not only increased, but so have our wraparound services, community partnerships and significant housing placements. The new Austin Street Center for Community Engagement will make way for a master-planned, 24/7 client-focused shelter and day service center, designed specifically around our proved process that Helps the Home.”

The center will enable Austin Street, partnering with Texas Health Dallas, to create a new medical respite program for clients recently discharged from area hospitals.

“Essentially, hospitals provide the medical care and then they discharge people with the intention that they’re able to receive care in their home,” said Roby. “But if you don’t have a home, it can be challenging from a hospital and patient perspective.”

Mental health services will expand, too, as Austin Street grows its partnership with IPS Recovery.

“We are addressing the full spectrum,” Roby said, “so that when people are placed in new housing, they have ongoing care.”

Dallas’ unsheltered homeless population has grown 725% since 2009 – a staggering challenge, especially during the current pandemic. Campaign chair Megan Burkhart said the entire community will benefit from the new center and its programs.

“The outcomes of the expanded services and capacity of Austin Street Center means safer, cleaner streets and dramatic savings in tax dollars. The average cost to the civic infrastructure is approximately $40,000 per year, per homeless person. Austin Street this past year alone saved more than $8.5 million tax dollars by housing 214 of our homeless neighbors. With the construction of the Austin Street Center for Community Engagement, it is anticipated that more than 760 individuals will be housed annually, further resulting in more than $30 million in taxpayer savings. This is a win-win for everyone.”

Austin Street plans a groundbreaking at the end of 2020 and a grand opening in early 2022. If you’d like to help, you may donate here.

The proposed Austin Street Center for Community Engagement

Dining space at Austin Street’s Center for Community Engagement