AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Who would have thought that, even in death, Homer the Homeless Goose — who became a mascot for Austin’s homeless population in the late 1980s — would continue his advocacy from beyond the grave?
Yes, Homer died last year, but his spirit is still alive and, after being stuffed and prepared by Martinez Brothers Taxidermy, Homer’s carnal remains are ready to continue the famous waterfowl’s homeless advocacy into the afterlife with the “Homer the (formerly) Homeless Goose Roadshow.”
The tour will have members of the Challenger Street Newspaper serving as “roadies” in taking Homer to area schools and nonprofits and educating the public about the issue of homelessness.
“We’re hopeful that resurrecting Homer from the grave and resurrecting his prior success as an ambassador for the homeless, we can have the same kinds of giant leaps that he was able to make in the community in the late ’80s,” Lori Renteria told the Austin American-Statesman (http://atxne.ws/29mGZm1 ). The wife of City Council member Sabino “Pio” Renteria is Homer’s self-proclaimed godmother who cared for him for 18 years.
The goose burst onto the local political scene in May 1988 when several homeless men and Lori Renteria decided they needed a flashy gimmick to get the city’s attention on the growing problem of homelessness. They rounded up $17 and bought Homer, just a gosling then, from Callahan’s General Store.
They threatened to eat him if city officials didn’t meet with them. Animal lovers were outraged, and the city, thankfully, obliged. Homer was credited with bringing much-needed attention to the plight of homeless people in the city and spearheading the push for social services for that population.
The goose garnered national attention and had his picture published in newspapers across the country. He was even flown first class to the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta where he met Jesse Jackson and former first lady Rosalynn Carter. He also met fellow Austin icon Willie Nelson.
Homer, a white Chinese goose, lived to be 27 and spent his final years at the Austin Zoo and Animal Refuge, where he battled and beat cancer before dying peacefully in his sleep last year.
The new tour comes at a good time. Homelessness has once again become a rising issue in the city, particularly compounded by a lack of affordable housing.
Last year, the population of Austin residents who were chronically homeless grew 13 percent to 7,054. And the yearly count that tracks the number of homeless people on the street in Travis County on any given day increased by 20 percent.
In late June, Council Member Renteria and Mayor Steve Adler kicked off the roadshow with a press conference in City Hall. Organizers hoped to keep the stuffed goose there for a month, but they were told in no uncertain words last week that Homer had to go.
“He’s getting evicted,” said Valerie Romness, director of the Challenger Street Newspaper.
Last month, Romness, Lori Renteria and a crew from the Challenger newspaper wobbled the goose out of City Hall. He is now at an undisclosed location in East Austin, Romness said. The goose’s caretakers don’t want anyone messing with him. They eventually hope Homer will be housed permanently in the Austin History Center, Romness said.
But they are looking for a temporary home for Homer. If any school or nonprofit is willing to play host to Homer, Romness asks that they contact the Challenger newspaper at (512) 560-4735 or log onto Homer’s Facebook page, which is titled “Homer the Homeless Goose.”
“That would be really helpful,” Lori Renteria said. “I don’t think people know he’s available for their work places or organizations.”