Virtual Community Forum
Ending homelessness begins with a home. With the foundation of a home to regain health and stability and tools like physical and mental health care and job opportunities, everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Integral Care and Caritas of Austin are proud to present a virtual forum focused on evidence-based solutions to ending homelessness. By providing housing alongside crucial services that improve health and well-being, we are saving lives and reducing costs in our community. Our experts, including a community member who formerly experienced homelessness, will explore the following topics and more:
Audience members can submit questions in advance of the forum and ask questions at the end of the discussion. The forum will be moderated by Ellen Richards, Integral Care’s Chief Strategy Officer. Learn more about our panelists below.
Here are a few ways to get involved and support our neighbors experiencing homelessness
Please deliver to 1430 Collier St, Austin 78704 in a new, small backpack or resealable plastic bag.
Furniture household items, infant care, clothes, and more
Ruth Ahearn, LMFT
Practice Administrator of Housing and Health Care for the Homeless Initiatives, Integral Care
Ruth Ahearn, LMFT is the Practice Administrator of Housing and Health Care for the Homeless Initiatives with Integral Care. Ruth began working for Integral Care 15 years ago in the Child and Family Services Division and has been involved in the field of housing and homeless services for the last 7 years. In her current position, Ruth oversees the Supported Housing Support Services teams as well as our Outreach and Engagement teams working with individuals experiencing homelessness.
Megan Podowski, MPH
Deputy Director of Rapid Rehousing and Integrated Services, Caritas of Austin
Megan Podowski is the Deputy Director of Rapid Rehousing and Integrated Services for Caritas of Austin and has over 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector. She has worked within the homeless response system in Austin, TX since 2008, holding a variety of positions over the years and gained rich experience working with diverse populations, multiple social service contracts, and varied funding streams. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from St. Edward’s University and a Master of Public Health from the University of Texas at Austin. Megan is very excited to bring what she has learned from her experience in homeless services to this forum and facilitate movement forward in ending homelessness for all populations. Since creating a community-wide collaborative approach and redeveloping how we deliver and implement effective rapid rehousing and homelessness prevention programs, we now know what works! We know that a coordinated entry system works, serving the most vulnerable works, housing first works, but most importantly none of those components work without community collaboration.
Austinite who formerly experienced homelessness
Shirley enjoys reading, watching TV and spending time with family and friends. Shirley was born in Austin, Texas, but spent time in Fresno, California and Killeen, Texas before moving back to Austin in 1988. She has 3 children, 14 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. Shirley experienced homelessness for 5 years before securing housing in June of 2020.
Chief Strategy Officer, Integral Care
Ellen Richards serves as Chief Strategy Officer of Integral Care where she brings skills in strategic and community planning, research and analysis, fundraising, and community and political organizing. She has been with the organization since 2014. Richards’ professional experience includes the for-profit, non-profit, political and government arenas, primarily in the field of health and human services. Over the past 15 years, Richards has developed in-depth knowledge of local issues through her work with Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, Travis County Health and Human Services and Veterans Service and Central Health. Richards earned a Master of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Science in social work from St. Edward’s University.
Integral Care supports adults and children living with mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities in Travis County. Integral Care’s services include a 24-hour helpline for anyone who needs immediate support, ongoing counseling to improve mental health, drug and alcohol treatment to help with recovery, and housing to regain health and independence. Integral Care helps provide a solid foundation for well-being. Founded in 1967, Integral Care is Travis County’s Local Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority.
Caritas of Austin believes that when every person has a stable place to call home, they can realize their full potential and contribute to our community. We build wellbeing by making sure that people have a safe home, access to healthy groceries, jobs that provide a reliable living wage, and educational opportunities to learn life skills. All of us need a sturdy foundation and layers of support in our lives to thrive; that’s what creates a strong community. Our innovative, personalized and proven approach to building wellbeing and ending homelessness creates a more vibrant Austin for everyone.