Alan Ramirez is an Austin businessman, a pastor, a husband, a father of four kids and now, he also considers himself a friend to people who are experiencing homelessness.
Ramirez volunteers weekly to serve food to people at the Esperanza Community, a five-acre, encampment on Texas Department of Transportation property in Southeast Austin where about 200 people experiencing homelessness live. Ramirez says Austin’s homeless population has grown dramatically in recent years. He aims to build community ties among the people there who often live on the fringes of society.
“I come here at least three times a week. I’ve been building relationships with the community. We do different activities,” Ramirez said. “The main one: we bring food, homemade food, and they love that! But the main thing is to build up relationships.”
He says many people seem to be afraid of people experiencing homelessness – that they’re somehow dangerous. But his experiences tell him otherwise.
“Most of these people, they’re good people. They just fell into addictions, and they all what they need is love,” Ramirez said.
He speaks from experience. Ramirez hasn’t experienced homelessness, but he has experienced addiction to alcohol. He knows how an addiction can take hold of a person’s life.
“I used to drink every single day,” he said. “And my mother, she was praying for me every day. And at some point, I just got tired of the life that I was living.”
Now, as a recovering alcoholic, Ramirez tries to focus on what he has to contribute to the people at Esperanza Community. Often, he says, one of his most valuable contributions isn’t material.
“It’s a feeling. When you feel the love of the people and you can give them that love back to them,” he said. “There is no words to explain that.”