Hello, this is Christian Rodriguez, Executive Director of Trinity Center. I feel so privileged to be able to write this annual report as I did last year, especially after completing my first full year as the agency’s Director. In May I will complete my 6th official year as an employee with Trinity Center. Having witnessed so much throughout those years, I have been a witness to the same, unchanging reality despite global, national, or local changes: the unhoused neighbors we love and serve every day continue to come to our door physically, emotionally, and spiritually hungry and in need. It is for these reasons that I feel immense pride in the amazing work our agency continues to do to meet such needs. 2023 for Trinity Center was a year of departures and new beginnings, new partnerships, successful fundraising initiatives, impactful advocacy, increased service delivery, as well as a year of continued radical hospitality and care for our unhoused neighbors, both of which have been at the foundation of our existence for more than 20 years.
In 2023 Trinity Center had 4 staff transitions. Trinity Center’s former case managers, Emily Britz and Libby Brennan, departed from Trinity Center and now utilize their skills and gifts in new spaces. Libby joined the team in the Summer of 2021 as the agency’s AmeriCorps volunteer. In 2022 she was offered a full-time position as a case manager. She was well-known for going above and beyond for her clients. Emily joined the Trinity Center staff team in the Fall of 2020 as a case manager and was promoted in 2022 as the agency’s Case Management Supervisor. Through her amazing leadership and work ethic, Emily has added to the amazing legacy of Social Workers and Case Management Supervisors who have elevated Trinity Center’s Case Management Program to what it is today. Thirdly, Sean Campbell, Trinity Center’s 2022-23 term AmeriCorps Volunteer, also transitioned out of the agency at the end of his term in July. Sean was a perfect example of the phrase, “love has no boundaries.” He embodied Trinity Center’s values of being hospitable, caring, and accepting of all. Before his departure, Sean redecorated our chapel area– a space where neighbors can escape the busyness and “noise” of the outside and center themselves and be attentive to what’s going on “inside,” a practice Sean modeled very well for all of us. Lastly, Trinity Center saw the transition of its Kitchen Aid, Joshua Posada. Joshua came to us in the Summer of 2022 at first as a favor, filling in at a time of some major staff transitions. A month of help turned into a year and we are so grateful for his attentiveness and maintenance of our kitchen where hundreds of thousands of nutritious meals were prepared throughout the year.
As we said goodbye to so many amazing individuals, we welcomed new faces into our agency. Gregory “Bishop'' Turner joined the Trinity Center staff team and serves as the agency’s current Kitchen Aid. Bishop brings with him a vibrant, positive energy and a knack for putting together even some of the most random food items and turning them into nutritious snacks for neighbors daily. Along with Bishop, Trinity Center hired its new Case Management Supervisor, Myah Williams. Myah Williams comes to Trinity Center from The University of Georgia where she obtained her Master’s in Social Work. Myah has been in a season of continuous learning of homeless services, shaping the agency’s Case Management Program into one that is both impactful and intentional for the clients who participate. Regarding Sean’s replacement, for the first time in a decade Trinity Center was unable to successfully recruit a new AmeriCorps Volunteer. The reasons are heavily attributed to Austin’s continuous increase in the cost of living. We are hopeful to continue recruitment throughout the year as well as raise funds to supplement the stipend an AmeriCorps Volunteer would receive in the future.
In 2023 four of Trinity Center’s Board of Directors completed their terms: Heather Dennison, Stephanie “Cissy” Warner, Al D’Andrea and David Schumaker. All were instrumental in supporting and ensuring the agency’s mission moved forward through some of the most difficult times, including the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are so grateful for their dedication and commitment to our cause. In 2023 Trinity Center welcomed and onboarded 3 new members to our Board of Directors: Gaye Polan, Jason Palos and Caitlin Maher. These three individuals enter the group with almost 20 years of combined experience as volunteers for Trinity Center, serving in our clothing closet, in our kitchen for breakfast distribution, as well as our ID Assistance Program. Their love for the neighbors we serve as well as insight and knowledge of the issues and needs our neighbors face make them incredible assets among Trinity Center’s leadership.
In 2022 Trinity Center joined staff from agencies like Sunrise Navigation Center, Texas Harm Reduction Alliance and others to advocate to Cap Metro for free fares for the unhoused in the City of Austin. We took our voices to Cap Metro’s Board of Directors, made numerous news headlines, and persisted to push and speak on what the benefits could be for an unhoused person when barriers were removed to transportation. Cap Metro listened and took action. In the Spring/Summer of 2023 Trinity Center along with other agencies participated in a pilot program for the distribution of free-fare “Smart Cards,” and in October the Free Fares Program went live and Trinity Center has continued to be a major distributor of 2-year bus passes to neighbors daily. What a win!!!
Overall, Trinity Center physically saw more than 40,000+ individuals at Trinity Center in 2023, with many of them receiving a specific service as well as many who entered our space to simply “be,” finding relief from the elements inside, while likely enjoying a snack and maybe a cup of some amazing coffee. With this, I would like to share an extensive list of what Trinity Center accomplished throughout the year:
Trinity Center has been one of the only agencies in the downtown area to distribute breakfast consistently Monday - Friday. In 2023, in partnership with Texas Coffee Traders, Trinity Center served 22,510 breakfast meals. In addition to breakfast, 5,274 snack items were also distributed in partnership with the Central Texas Food Bank, Royal Blue Groceries, and St. David’s kitchen. In partnership with El Milagro Tortilla, our Sunday Streets Ministry volunteers served 2,450 total lunch meals. In partnership with St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Trinity Center distributed 500+ lunch sacks. And lastly, in partnership with The Giving Tree organization for Thanksgiving, and St. David’s Episcopal Church Kitchen for Christmas, more than 500 hot meals were served during the holidays. This totals to 31,234 meals/food items distributed to our neighbors in 2023!
Financial Assistance Program
At Trinity Center, we understand that a government-issued ID means the ability to apply for various housing programs, employment opportunities, social services dealing with physical and mental healthcare, food access as well as transportation services, all amounting to the stability necessary for better individual situations. Our ID assistance program is facilitated by William Day, our Operations Coordinator, as well as our three amazing and dedicated volunteers: Martha Degrasse, Catherine Robb and Jason Palos. Together, in 2023 we were able to assist neighbors with: 638 Texas ID Cards, 90 Texas Driver’s Licenses and 339 in-and-out of state birth certificates. In addition to identification documents, Trinity Center also assisted with 46 Food Handler and TABC Permit Courses, and 46 Prescription co-pays. 2023 marked the 2nd year of our partnership with the Downtown Austin Alliance for our diversion program. Through our partnership Trinity Center purchased 209 Greyhound Bus Tickets. 209 individuals were successfully reunited with friends or family members who stated they would take in the individual(s) when arriving at their destination, ending their homelessness. In total, Trinity Center financially assisted 1,368 neighbors in 2023!
Trinity Center has always been an agency that has thrived off of collaboration. We are so grateful to partner with churches and organizations who conduct weekly outreach or provide specific services to neighbors in our space like: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Tarrytown United Methodist Church, El Buen Samaritano, SAFE Alliance, The Central Texas Food Bank, Community Care, Vivent Health, UT Austin’s School of Nursing and Social Work, Texas State University, AGE of Central Texas, Communities for Recovery, Travis County Health and Human Services, Well Care, United Healthcare, and Cap Metro, to name a few. To offer you some glimpses into the amazing impact some of our partners had in 2023 I am grateful to share: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s shower ministry for women provided 402 private showers, Tarrytown United Methodist Church’s shower ministry for men provided 533 private showers, Community Care utilized our space for outreach and successfully met with and provided 566 Medical Access Program (MAP) insurance cards and conducted 125 free HIV tests, and The Central Texas Food Bank and El Buen Samaritano utilized our space for outreach and met with and completed 336 SNAP/Food Stamp Applications. Within our clothing closet, our amazing volunteers have assisted 1,365 women with outfits on Monday shopping days and 1,400 men with outfits on Friday shopping days.
Also in 2023, in collaboration with Travis County and led by our former Case Management Supervisor Emily Britz, Trinity Center became a distributor of Naloxone (aka Narcan), an opioid overdose reversal spray. Today, an accessible cabinet in our main space houses dozens of boxes of Naloxone Spray that can be freely taken by neighbors with no questions asked. In the current opioid overdose epidemic, Trinity Center supports life-saving, harm reduction practices, especially for our unhoused neighbors. Lastly, in addition to the above churches and agencies, we are so grateful for the willingness of the following faith congregations who have continued serving the spiritual needs of the downtown unhoused community during our Sunday Streets Service and meal: St. David’s Episcopal Church, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, The Church of the Good Shepherd, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, St. James’ Episcopal Church, Trinity Episcopal School, St. Joan of Arc Episcopal Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church. Through these group’s continued faithfulness 1,367 neighbors total attended Sunday service and were spiritually and physically fed in 2023.
In 2023, 66 neighbors participated in Trinity Center’s Case Management Program and received one-on-one guidance and assistance in navigating some of the most complex benefit systems as well as intentional care and attention by their case managers which included paid staff and university interns. Through our Case Management Program Trinity Center assisted financially with 92 transactions of client needs such as sleeping bags, tents, cellphones, chargers, flashlights, clothing items and supplies for employment, backpacks, eyeglasses, international identification documents, HEB Gift Cards for newly housed clients, etc. Our Case Management Program also financially assisted clients who were housed in 2023 with 21 Application Fees, 5 Administrative Fees, 13 security deposit fees, 15 instances for rental assistance, and 2 instances of help with utilities, totaling to 56 housing-related transactions! Despite the transitions throughout the year, Trinity Center successfully housed 14 Case Management clients in 2023!! Such work is not easy, and affordable housing options are few in this growing city of Austin. Our Case Managers serve our clients as advocates, bridge-builders, problem solvers, and agents of empowerment. We look forward to the successes in 2024.
The above achievements in service delivery could not be done by our small 5-person staff team. For more than two decades Trinity Center has relied on the dedication and commitment of individuals who are willing to show up on weekday mornings and come in with the intention of loving on and caring for others. We are so grateful for those who have served and continue to serve alongside us. In 2023 Trinity Center hosted 306 volunteers total throughout the year, all of which recorded more than 900 hours total of service. In addition to our weekly volunteers, 1,367 individuals total volunteered during our weekly Sunday service. Whether it is through our daily breakfast distribution, the preparation and serving of snacks, the set up, facilitating and serving of food during our Sunday Street Ministry, our front desk volunteers who hand out mail, answer questions, and distribute toiletries, our volunteers who assist in our ID Assistance program–helping individuals obtain important documents–our volunteers who assist neighbors in shopping for clothing in our closet or even sorting all of the donations that come in, or the amazing volunteer teams from St. Mark’s and Tarrytown United congregations who facilitate private showers for dozens of neighbors each week–THANK YOU!!! 2023 also consisted of amazing and willing groups from Dell Technologies, The Giving Tree, Central Presbyterian Church, First Baptist Church, Avanade, as well as mother-daughter teams from The National Charity League, to name a few. We could not do anything that we do without such willing hands and spirits.
In addition to our dedicated and faithful volunteers I also want to acknowledge that this work could not be done without the amazing supporters who give to Trinity Center financially. In 2023 Trinity Center successfully hosted its annual Barbara Jordan Event, an event filled with celebration, story-telling, and the recognition of the incredible individuals who do the work every day. In 2023 Riki Rushing, a long time supporter of Trinity Center, was honored for her amazing contributions to our agency. The event raised more than $140k and we are grateful for all who gave financially that evening, especially those who gave major gifts: Riki Rushing and Allen Gilmer, Heather and Paul Dennison, Beth and Bryan Plater, Kelly and Lewis Talbert, and Robin and Gene Shepherd. In addition to our Barbara Jordan Event Trinity Center was awarded $249k in grants. We are grateful for the following Grantmakers and Foundations who supported us in 2023: The Moody Foundation, The Religious Coalition to Assist the Homeless, The Shield-Ayres Foundation, The City of Austin, Glimmer of Hope Austin, The Austin Community Foundation, The Lola Wright Foundation, The Donald Hammill Foundation, and The Connor Foundation. Throughout the year Trinity Center was also blessed with fundraising initiatives initiated by groups like The Texas Playboys Baseball Club, who hosted a game with all proceeds dedicated to Trinity Center, and Adobe at the Domain who fundraised and contributed more than $6k specifically for blankets that have been timely and freely given out throughout the recent cold snaps. We also experienced amazing generosity throughout the year in the purchasing of much-needed items off of our Amazon Wishlists, providing relief from the heat and cold, as well as providing essential toiletry items, backpacks, and clothing. Lastly, Trinity Center ended the year with its annual campaign that successfully brought in more than $50k. To all of you who financially support our mission, we thank you and hope the above numbers and service data reflect the impact of your amazing generosity.
Services, policies, and even the culture among individuals who are unhoused are always changing. The needs continue to grow as more individuals in the city of Austin become homeless due to the continuous increases in costs of living as well as inflation rates on essential needs. People are seeking help and relief and Trinity Center continues to provide both the best we can every day. Whether it is through important information, a service we provide, or simply the acknowledgement and relationship-building that occurs naturally within our walls, Trinity Center remains an important pillar in the downtown Austin community. Would you consider supporting Trinity Center with the generosity of your time or finances? Would you consider rallying up your workplaces or neighborhoods to provide essential toiletry items or much-needed clothing? There is always something you can do. I hope everything above has been encouraging for you to read and I hope you can be as proud as I am of the amazing work Trinity Center continues to do in its serving of the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of our unhoused neighbors that we love.
God Bless You.
- Christian Rodriguez, Executive Director