At the Austin Street Center, clients check in hoping to reserve a bed for the night.

They are provided a safe place to sleep, shower, receive clothing and a meal, and most importantly a feeling of worth.

“When people are experiencing homelessness, usually what happens, when people are walking down the street they’re walking the other way,” said Dustin Perkins, who is the director of client services at Austin Street Center. “They often call people who are experiencing homelessness invisible.

“So to not only have community members be here inside the Austin Street Center, but to have people who are celebrities, who are well known in the community, really gives them visibility.”

Dallas Mavericks point guard, J.J. Barea delivered nearly 1,000 winter items to the families in need at the Austin Street Center, an overnight shelter where most clients return in the same outfit they were given upon their last departure.

These donations were accumulated through the Winter Warm Up Drive, presented by Raising Cane’s, during the month of December. Mavs fans were challenged to donate gently used coats, blankets, and other winter items to their local Raising Cane’s.

Barea said it best: “When it gets cold, people need to be warm.”

And the folks associated with Austin Street Center can feel the warmth coming from Barea’s heart.

“He’s doing a good thing, blessing people anyway he can,” said Austin Street Center client Lawrence Morris. “(He’s) showing love to the homeless and taking time to come out and meet people.

“He’s got the heart to come out here and let us meet him. I think that’s wonderful.”

Perkins explained that it helps when people truly see the clients. For them, Barea’s visit was so much more than just a photo opportunity. It means that people see them, the community loves them, and the community is there for them.

Austin Street Center employees explained how happy the clients were when they heard that Barea was coming to see them. Perkins said they were in “disbelief that it could be possible here.

“When you’re experiencing homelessness often times you feel like you are being shuffled off to the side. It was a lot of gratitude, disbelief, amazement and just excitement.”

The excitement flooded the entrance to the shelter with clients waiting to get in.

“As soon as we drove up and saw the line of the clients waiting to get in, it was just overwhelming,” said Crystal Cloyd, the leader of marketing for Raising Cane’s.

As soon as all of the donations were brought inside, Barea started dressing the clients in their coat selection.

“J. J. was incredible,” Cloyd said. “He really took the time with each client to make sure that they were fitted and felt good about themselves.

“You could just see the smiles on their faces. It touched them and it definitely touched our group as well.”

ABOUT MAVS OFF COURT: The Dallas Mavericks strive to be champions on the court and in the community. We are dedicated to building a stronger community through educational programs, health and wellness initiatives, environmental efforts, support for military veterans, and grants to nonprofit organizations. Through our community programs and the Mavs Foundation, we are changing lives in North Texas and have impacted thousands of children, families and communities. Learn more at @MavsOffCourt

ABOUT AUSTIN STREET CENTER: Austin Street Center provides safe shelter and meets the basic needs of the most vulnerable homeless. Founded in 1983, Austin Street Center is the largest low barrier shelter in Dallas that serves men, ages 45 and older, and women, ages 18 and older. Each person who finds shelter with Austin Street Center is provided a safe place to sleep, showers, clothing, and meals.More than just a meal and a bed, the Austin Street individualized model of service attempts to treat the whole individual through a comprehensive program that includes: housing coordination and stabilization services; employment and education resources; benefits and ID assistance; mental health services on-site; spiritual, emotional, and addiction support; diversion; transportation; and more.Austin Street Center’s goal is to help clients transition from homelessness to independence. #HelpThemHomeLearn more at

ABOUT RAISING CANE’S®: Founded by Todd Graves in 1996 in Baton Rouge, La., RAISING CANE’S CHICKEN FINGERS has more than 385 restaurants in 24+ states, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, with multiple new restaurants under construction. The company has ONE LOVE®—quality chicken finger meals—and is continually recognized for its unique business model and customer satisfaction. Raising Cane’s vision is to have restaurants all over the world and be the brand for quality chicken finger meals, a great crew, cool culture and active community involvement. More information is available at

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