by Fred Pettit
Twenty six years ago or so a group of street people were frustrated. That’s nothing new right? The difference this time; they researched the city ordinances in Austin with support from local activists. Their mission: To have some essential needs met – a place to take showers & use of phones, a central location to meet contractors or anyone looking for workers at a fair rate and they always were believe you me. The right people either weren’t aware or thought it was no Biggie,’ until…..
Thinking they needed something to get more attention and after raising the the necessary funds, they purchased a white Chinese gosling at Callahan’s for $17. This was their mascot, later to be named Homer because the name is what everyone wants, right?
Ol’ Homer, with money raised by activists, took a little trip. He visited the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta. While there he was greeted by Mayors Jesse Jackson and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. He also met Willie Nelson from Texas who was also a fan of young Homer.
Still, their needs weren’t a priority at City Hall.
They built three rafts including one for Homer, Two people & him were living on Town Lake which was legal at the time. Finally they threatened to eat Homer unless their needs were met. Now they were getting some attention.
Homer was missing for a while & made national news for what was to be just his first time in the lime light. Rescue teams & such were dispatched to find him while a nation waited. After a month he was found stuck in the mud around Town Lake. Though starving, he was theirs & everyone that cared now had their mascot saved .
Suddenly, for some reason the City Council was very interesting in helping their cause, Golly Gee!
They got their day shelter along with some other service’s to help with employment & hygiene.
Homer was now a hero.
A local activist Lori Renteria & Family housed Homer at their home till 2006. Now you can visit him at the Austin Zoo anytime they’re open. There’s usually a few more pets to keep him company but Homer’s the Boss! Austin does provide a place for their animals!
Long happy trails. Thanks!
Homer’s Demands (From 1988)
The Eight Demands of Save The Swans (The Street People’s Advisory Council)
- Complete Amnesty for the group by the Salvation Army and other service agencies
- Recognition by government officials and others to form a “Street People’s Advisory Council”
- Once the advisory council is formed, that it be allowed to meet with the board of the Salvation Army and participate in a separate two-hour work session with the City Council
- Assistance from the Austin Area Labor Council in organizing a homeless union and the “use of a centrally located union hall for out organizing activities”
- Creation of a “central referral system for homeless people to be operated by homeless or ex-homeless people”
- A $1 million allocation in the upcoming city budget “for the acquisition of affordable rental units specifically designed for use by single adults and childless couples who are homeless”
- Immediate release of $300,000 in funds by the Housing and Community Service Department
- “A public awareness/education campaign” explaining homeless people’s plight be videotaped and broadcast
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