‘I never saw myself becoming homeless’: Local landscaper helps homeless man get back on his feet

State & Regional

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the city of Austin navigates its homeless response strategies, a local landscaper says you can start small and still make a difference.

Over a year ago, Joe Salvato started a conversation with someone who had struggled with homelessness and addiction. That conversation has led to a special partnership.

Joe Salvato and Jourdan Mink often go out to the Beverly S. Sheffield Park in Northwest Austin to muster up inspiration for their landscaping business.

“This is one of the designs that we’ve worked on together,” said Jourdan Meek while working at the park. “It’s nothing but a bunch of squiggly lines, just line work, and we turn it into a piece of art.”

A year and a half ago, Joe taught Jourdan everything he needs to know about the ins and the outs of how to make a garden pop.

“I realized well, he has some potential here, maybe in the business,” said Joe Salvato.

Joe is the owner of Landscapes by Joe, one day he stopped Jourdan while he was biking in northwest Austin to ask for help with one of his jobs.

“One day I had a big job that I needed some big measurements on,” said Salvato. “I asked him if he’d be willing to help me with some measurements, paid of course.”

It’s off of Mopac and RM 2222 where Jourdan had been living, holding up a sign and asking people for money. That conversation Joe had with Jourdan changed and renewed his life.

“It was a set of events that started a long time ago. I’ve had good jobs in the past, I have an education,” said Mink. “I never saw myself becoming homeless, but I was ignorant to my surroundings at the time and my actions.”

Jourdan had been homeless for four years in Austin.

“Me and my dog always slept in public places that were lit up and that got me in trouble with the police because they wanted to ID me,” said Mink. “I didn’t have an ID, so failure to ID and then you get tickets. You can’t pay the tickets, so you end up in jail. It’s just a constant cycle that happens 100 times, and you know, over and over again, because you can’t get an ID.”

Jourdan was left to fight the vicious cycle, then Joe came along.

“It’s not easy to get an ID. I had to pull a few strings and had a friend of mine, who previously was a municipal court judge, currently a lawyer. She had to write a letter to his birth county to get his birth certificate. That opened up the world for us,” said Salvato.

The doors have opened for Jourdan now. He has a place to live and it’s him and Joe now, doing life together and selling landscaping deals.

“There’s a chance we can really help the situation, but I do think it’s going to be more grassroots.”

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