A page titled “Help Mr. Bill Austin — Kindness Begins at Home” appeared on the social networking site Thursday. Tuesday, the city of Jacksonville had demolished his home, after warning Austin over a period of several months, because city officials deemed it “dangerous or unsafe.”
On the web page, people posted items they were willing to donate — one person promised towels, another promised a trash can full of toiletries. By noon Thursday Austin had already received Vienna sausages, some Ritz crackers and some kitty litter for his cat.
“Life is changing minute-by-minute fore me,” Austin, 55, said. “I’m a day–to-day survivor anyway.”
A little after noon, four men who have tracked Austin’s plight on Facebook visited him on his lot, which was vacant but for his small SUV and a pile of belongings covered in donated tarps. The men were there to help him load his goods onto a trailer so the items can be carried to a donated storage site.
The visitors said residents would have offered to help repair Austin’s house before it was demolished — had they known it was at risk of being lost.
“The word should have gone out to this community to know that this was going to happen,” said Jose Martinez, one of the men who visited Austin Thursday.
At least one person has offered Austin a place to stay for a few days. Several people have stopped by to offer Austin food, but only one short-term housing option has been offered.
“It’s going to be two or three days,” Austin said. “That’s long enough for me.”
Austin, who was formerly a heavy–equipment operator, has been out of work for two years.
He said that while people have donated items to him, no one has come forward to offer him work. He said he’d be glad to have employment if he could find it and for now is glad to have the things people are offering.
“They’re all meaningful,” Austin said. “The amount doesn’t matter.”
Star staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.