Building a Better Tomorrow For the Homeless Community in Dallas

by Chris Morgan AT&T Insider Staff Writer


Charmaine Williams and her mother did all they could to avoid being homeless when she was growing up. One tactic: staying in the apartment even after the eviction notice was posted on the front door.

"We were hanging by a thin wire. I'm able to take a step back now to see how close we were," said Charmaine, now a program manager for the digital organization.

That's why she is ready to do her part with Believe DallasSM, which launched this week. The goal is to help mitigate homelessness, particularly for families and veterans.The initiative is an extension of AT&T Believes℠, a larger companywide initiative.

"This hits home for me," Charmaine said. "People make assumptions about people who are homeless, but for me, it wasn't that my mom was lazy, didn't want to work or was a drug addict. My mom worked 2 jobs, but it wasn't enough to pay the rent. People always ask how someone ends up on the streets. It's really easy, sometimes it's just one thing that falls out of place."

The extra motivation

Here's one reason why the employee organizers of Believe Dallas decided to focus on homelessness: In the past 3 years, the unsheltered homeless population there has grown by nearly 270%.

Nearly 200 new homeless individuals are identified each month1.

"And there's a shortage in the number of shelter beds. We want to be good neighbors, and we believe that everybody deserves a chance to make their lives better," said Angela Ross, director – External Affairs.

These figures about the Dallas homeless population were collected by a local agency, OurCalling. It's one of the agencies that received part of the more than $500,000 that AT&T contributed this week to homeless service providers. OurCalling plans to use the funds to create a new space for homeless women.

The Believe Dallas launch began with AT&T employees assembling 500 hygiene kits for homeless people. At mid-day, representatives from 9 homeless service providers gathered in the headquarters lobby. A crowd of employees asked questions and signed up to volunteer.

Among them was Nicole Sauer, chief of staff for AT&T Digital, Retail & Care, who will be tutoring children at a nearby homeless shelter.

"We underestimate the impact we can have on our neighbors. We are all really smart, really talented, really motivated people and we need to unleash that. It just matters," Nicole said.


Read more about Charmaine's story below!

Eviction notices and nightly ramen

Charmaine also talked to a several homeless service providers during the launch and is ready to provide her support.

It's the kind of help she and her mother, Katherine, could have used when she was a child.

When she was growing up in the San Francisco area, Charmaine's mother worked minimum-wage jobs in retail without any health benefits or paid time off. But she also had a chronic illness, so she often lost her job when she was sick or hospitalized.

For several years, they moved from place to place, ate a lot of ramen noodles and sometimes scrounged for food behind grocery stores. They were evicted from their apartments so often that Charmaine learned how to outsmart the contraptions placed on their door knobs, which were intended to keep them from going in.

When Charmaine was 11, she and her mother moved to Las Vegas. They lived in "weekly apartments," one-room rentals, which didn't require a credit check or security deposit.

Then Charmaine's mom landed a job as a casino cocktail waitress, a job with health insurance. This brought a new sense of stability – and eventually a two-bedroom apartment.

Charmaine started working at AT&T when she was 18. She worked in data entry and then call centers. She moved into project management roles and worked in Big Data. "I decided I would go deep and learn everything I needed to be the best at my job and I would work as if my daughter's and my lives depended on it – because they did," Charmaine said.

Charmaine mourns some of what she lost during the tumultuous years, like all her baby and childhood photos. But she describes her mother in hero terms. "I look back now and I marvel at what she was able to do when I was little," she said.

Her mother now lives with Charmaine and her family. "She has been with us here for about 10 years and she hasn't been to the hospital once in the last 4 years. Where you live is just huge."

AT&T Believes began earlier this year with Believe Chicago, which aims to lift the lives of people in the 19 neighborhoods most affected by gun violence.

In New York, we're using our retail stores to help educate families on how protect their children online and give them effective tools to address the problems head-on.

In Atlanta, employees are aiming to shine a light on the historic Westside, bring attention to the successes and rally the community to support revitalization in 4 key areas.

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