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Instead of mourning the brain tumor diagnosis he received in August, Dusty Monroe took it as a sign: he needed to do more for his community. The tumor wasn't cancerous, luckily. Still, Monroe stuck to his epiphany. But where to start?
While scrolling on Reddit, Monroe stumbled upon a post made about "Bucket Guy." After losing income due to COVID-19, Bucket Guy took to the streets performing drum solos on buckets for extra cash next to a sign with his name and his Venmo.
"Someone should make him a better sign," one comment read.
Monroe, who has a background in graphic design, took it upon himself to do just that—designing, printing and delivering a new sign to Bucket Guy.
"I have a cool, unique set of skills, but my whole life I really used them only for myself and for my family and that kind of woke me up and I was like, 'Dude, you could die,'" Monroe said. "This opportunity to go help this one guy, make them cool little signs was kind of trivial (but) made me feel good."
Monroe then knew how he was going to help the community.
Humanize Austin is a new nonprofit that uses technology to help Austin's homeless residents get off the street, connect them with resources and educate the public on the causes of homelessness.
The company plans to provide qualifying homeless individuals with a sign featuring a unique QR code and link that will take people who scan to a web page. There they will find the person's story, as well as a video of how they got where they are, what skills they have and a seamless way to offer that person a job or donate money.
Signs will look similar to this mockup.
Monroe said there is evidence suggesting homeless people are often perceived as less human, so he is striving to correct that perception and humanize Austin's homeless population, hence the name.
"The hope is that it's like a two-minute video, not very long, just quick enough to learn about them, and help humanize who they are," Monroe said. "Give them a story, give them a face and give them an opportunity and a platform to reduce that discrimination and prejudice."
Monroe said one of the key issues with homelessness is a decline in self-esteem, sometimes making the individual feel worthless, which makes it harder to get back on their feet. Because of that, sign-holders will automatically donate 20% of the donations they receive to an organization of their choice.
"I think this is the key differentiator for us," Monroe said. "(The homeless) begin to contribute to society in a meaningful way, by choosing to have some of their donations given to that nonprofit."
Monroe will serve as the creative lead on the signs, designing them himself. Humanize Austin doesn't have any signs on the street yet, as they are still in the early stages of development, but they are on track to start doling out signs in January.
Monroe said he wants to help the homeless beyond creating these signs. For that reason, Humanize Austin is planning to partner with several other organizations, like Salvation Army, that focus on helping homeless people reintegrate into society.
"(We are) really trying to partner with different community organizations as well as make it just a grassroots effort," Monroe said.Humanize Austin is always looking for volunteers and is available on Facebook and Instagram.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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