By Danielle Vabner, Alexandra Cannon, Erika Sauceda, Danielle Lopez
AUSTIN, Tex. — A little help goes a long way, especially in a rapidly expanding city like Austin. That is precisely the idea behind Feet the Streets!, an annual sock drive hosted by the Longhorn Legislative Aides at the University of Texas at Austin.
The sock drive, which runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1 each academic year, aims to provide as many socks as possible for homeless youth in the Austin area. Boxes are provided outside of residence halls, and students can add any of their leftover socks, which will go to homeless youth between the ages of seven and 24.
UT freshman and LLA member Garrett Mireles said the organization wanted the event to be as accessible as possible for students, and they wanted college students on a budget to be able to participate.
“We wanted to find a way that students could get involved with helping the community in a way that was simple and easy for people to understand,” Mireles said. “We figured it was simple, it would be pretty direct, people could take a pair of socks out of their drawer at home and donate them without much else commitment or strings attached.”
Attempts to help homeless youth go beyond just the UT campus. Street Youth Ministry of Austin aims to provide help from a primarily religious standpoint. According to the Street Youth Ministry website, this includes Bible studies, prayer times, and fellowship events. They also provide referrals for education, jobs, drug counseling, and mental health to those who need it.
Terry Cole, Missionary and Founder of Street Youth Ministry, said the partnership with Longhorn Legislative Aides for Feet the Streets! originated after they approached Cole about the issue of youth homelessness. He said he is incredibly happy about the initiative.
“Socks are very valuable to a homeless person,” Cole said. “You’ve got to be able to move around 24/7 in the city to take care of yourself and that involves being on your feet a lot. If every student gave one pair of socks we could probably give [a pair to] every homeless person.”
Mireles said participation has been low despite their efforts to promote the event on social media. However, he said he thinks UT students do have a duty to participate.
“I think reaching out across that street, literally and figuratively, is a necessity and a responsibility of UT students,” Mireles said.
Though the sock drive may seem like a small gesture, Mireles said LLA wants to stay involved in the issue and take hands-on approach.
“We’re definitely projected to [work with homeless youth],” Mireles said. “We want to get out and hand out those socks individually to people on the street to show this isn’t just a removed process or removed initiative. We want to get our hands in there into West Campus, The Drag, surrounding areas, to show that this isn’t just something we’re doing for ourselves, to feel good about starting an initiative.”