Tiny homes, big hopes on Make a Difference Monday

I’ve worked with the homeless in one way or another for about fifteen years, in three states. And one of the things I have learned from so many of them is how easy it is to go from employed and “normal” to homeless almost overnight. And how very, very difficult it is to recover from the fall.

Those of us who have never lacked a place to call home can’t imagine the hurdles. It’s everything from having no place to bathe or store clothing to having no address to put down on a job application. It’s no proof of residence to get a driver’s license…or even a library card. It’s a thousand things those of us who have thankfully never been homeless cannot imagine.

That’s why projects like Mobile Loaves and Fishes Community First! Village are so critical to breaking the cycle of homelessness and letting people take the next step back into a normal life. This 27-acre planned community in Austin includes:

  • An innovative mix of affordable housing options
  • Places for study, and fellowship
  • Memorial garden and columbarium
  • A community garden featuring fruit and nut bearing trees and vegetables
  • A chicken operation, bee hives producing fresh honey and an aquaponics fish operation
  • A workshop with tool bank and art gallery for micro-enterprise opportunities
  • A medical facility for physical and mental health screenings and support services including hospice and respite care
  • Walking trails
  • An outdoor theater
  • Walking distance to public transportation
  • WiFi

The focus on Community First Village is to lift the disabled and chronically homeless permanently out of that life of uncertainty, illness and danger and offer them a chance. So far, 99 people have been reached by the Village, but there are still so many people here in Austin who need that helping hand. The goal of this project is to help 225 people permanently leave the world of homelessness and move on with dignity.

Several organizations around Austin are working with Mobile Loaves and Fishes to build more micro-housing and provide needed services for the residents. Some are raising money to build a micro-home…and then planning to work on the actual construction. Others are raising funds or offering their time for the support services the Village needs like help with gardens, health care or providing finishing touches like linens and kitchen needs. Everyone can help in some way.

Everyone deserves a chance to have a space to call their own, whether it’s a grand house or a tiny microhome. After all, to paraphrase Horton (my favorite Dr. Seuss character!), “A home is a home, no matter how small.”  Please help Austin’s homeless find a place to call home.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization helping Austin residents in need regardless of their religious affiliation. 

The Specs

903 South Capital of Texas Highway
Austin, Texas 78746
(512) 328-7299

http://mlf.org/pave-the-way-home/

Advertisements

Healthy and TASTY meals from a can? A special post on affordable cooking

pot pie

Let me start by saying food banks are wonderful. They’re a lifeline to put food on otherwise empty kitchen shelves, and keep hunger at bay when the budget doesn’t support a trip to the grocery store. At one point in my life, a box of typical food bank canned and boxed food that appeared on my porch was a lifesaving gift, so I know what I’m talking about.

But one of the biggest challenges facing people trying to use a food bank to survive is how to build healthy, tasty meals from canned and packaged foods. Even after my own financial crisis had passed, my single mom days were often filled with trying to make healthy, tasty meals for my kids and I from the case-lot canned good section of the grocery store, or even what was on the shelves at Dollar Tree. If you’ve never experienced that, let me tell you, it’s hard!

The Capital Area Food Bank here in Austin understands that struggle. That’s why they’ve asked local Canned-Food-Month-Badge-Featuredbloggers in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance to come up with a family friendly, low cost dinner using canned goods  likely to be found in a food bank. I jumped at the challenge, because I understand the need!

(Before I share the recipe, I need to let you know that even a meal as simple as this one is hard to make when you’re counting pennies. Food banks seldom include spices or seasonings on their shelves, simply because people don’t think to donate them, so making food flavorful is hard.  I chose to include them here, because the availability of bulk spices in local grocery stores like HEB makes it more affordable to get a small amount for under a dollar, and make a big impact on flavor. ) 

I started with a selection of canned good typical for a food pantry. Selecting a variety of vegetables means you’ll end up with a meal that’s heavy on nutrition. If low sodium versions are available, do select those cans.

canned goods

Vegetable (or Chicken) Pot Pie
6-8 small pot pies or one large casserole

Ingredients

Crust:

packets of biscuit mix

  • 2 packets biscuit mix (available at many food banks, or for .50/packet at HEB
  • 1/2 can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)

Filling

  • 1 can peas, drained
  • 1 can carrots, drained
  • 1 can potatoes, drained (diced, if not already diced from the can)
  • 1 can corn, (do not drain)
  • 1 can green beans (do not drain)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped

whole onion

  • 1/2 can vegetable broth
  • 1/2 can condensed cream soup (mushroom, potato, chicken, etc.,), low fat if available
  • 1/2 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can cooked chicken, tuna or turkey or one block tofu (optional)*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

poultry seasoning

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  • In a bowl, combine biscuit mix with 1/2 can of evaporated milk (or 1/2 cup regular milk)
  • Mix and set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan, combine all the vegetables, broth, remaining 1/2 can of milk, 1/2 can of condensed soup and seasoning.
  • Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until onions start to soften

pot pie filling

  • Make an egg-sized ball of the dough and pat it into the bottom of a pot pie tin or small loaf pan (I bought a package of 5 mini-loaf pans at Target for $1.45)

OR

  • Pat one half of the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking pan
  • Fill pans to within 1/2 inch of top of the pan(s)

filled pot pie

  • Pat out remaining dough to cover each pot pie (or the large pot pie.)

unbaked pot pies

  • Make 3 -4 small slits in the top of the crust
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or 45 minutes for a large pie)
  • Serve hot, in the pan or inverted onto a plate

Baked pot pieIf you have any leftover filling, as I did, mix the filling with the remaining broth mix and condensed soup. Add some extra milk, broth or water to make a nice cream soup to serve with another meal.

These pot pies freeze well. If you’re not planning on eating them immediately, assemble them, then freeze. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until hot in the center.

___________________________________

* I don’t eat meat, so I used vegetarian protein sources. Tofu, at about a dollar a package is a great choice for vegetarians on a budget who want to make this dish.

Austin Diaper Bank helps young and old (Make a Difference Monday)

Austin Diaper Bank logoCan you imagine not being able to buy diapers for your baby? Or being a senior citizen in need of adult diapers, but with a limited income?

Diapers and other personal care needs aren’t covered by programs like Food Stamps. They’re not available at most food banks.

But if you have a baby or toddler, they’re not optional either. Lack of enough diapers to keep a baby clean can lead to a whole host of physical and behavioral problems. And now researchers are finding a link between being unable to afford diapers and a mom’s increased risk for depression. Which of course, then affects her ability to care for an uncomfortable, fussy baby — or a baby who may even be in pain with severe diaper rash and other infections. It’s becomes a downward spiral in which no one wins.

And for older people in need of incontinence protection, having adult diapers can mean the difference between going out in public at all…or becoming a recluse.

Cloth diapers might sound like an option for people with children, but the laundry costs can quickly become financially prohibitive for that, too. Especially if, like so many people in apartments, you don’t have a washer and dryer at home. (Trust me…I did the cloth diaper route! It was hard to keep up even WITH a washer and dryer!) Add to that the fact that most day care programs won’t accept a child in cloth diapers, and you have a secondary economic issue.

Thank goodness there are people stepping in to help to fill this need here in Austin. I met the ladies behind the Austin Diaper Bank at a Texas M.I.L.K. event a few months ago. I learned that the group was the idea of founder Beverly Hamilton. She read about a similar program in other cities across the country, and was touched by the impact of the programs on the lives of children and families. But when she learned that Austin had no such program, she stepped into the void. The Austin Diaper Bank was born in June of 2013.

“There are many reasons people need help with diaper costs,” the volunteers told me. “It could be a family living in poverty, a job loss, a divorce or an illness. And with seniors, it’s an on-going problem as income doesn’t keep up with higher prices.”

The program is currently run out of the director’s home, but is looking for help with renting a space so they can accept more donations, sort and repackage them, and get them out to the growing numbers of families in need.  The group has already taken in and distributed over 50,000 diapers to date. But the need keeps expanding.

So how can you help? So glad you asked! Austin Diaper Bank is always in need of diapers, volunteers to sort, package and deliver diapers and to get the word out. Check out their How YOU Can Assist ADB in 2014 page for the details. That package or two of baby, toddler or adult diapers you donate could make a big difference to a family in crisis.