UT football star gains yards for unhoused Austinites in pledge with local nonprofits
To non-football fans, gaining a yard may not really change lives. But running back Bijan Robinson, number 5 on the Texas Longhorns, is making sure the ground he gains is really going the distance for Austin communities, with a $5-per-yard pledge to improve the lives of chronically homeless people.
For every yard Robinson gains, home-building nonprofit the Den Foundation will donate $5 to the Community First! Village, a mixed-income co-op in far East Austin that fosters community among formerly unhoused Austinites and live-in neighborhood ambassadors. The small pledge, dubbed Den5for5, adds up quickly: Robinson has gained more than 2,000 yards in career rushing yards since 2020, and 1,472 of those since the start of the initiative. By November 15, the pledged amount for the season totaled $7,360.
To amplify the contribution, fans at home, or anyone who likes a challenge, are invited to match the pledge or join at one-hundredth of the scale: 5 cents per yard, which by now would total $73.60. (Donors will have to do their own math using a one-time donation form, since there is no automated system.)
Robinson was a clear fit for the initiative as the new team representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at the University of Texas. He joins returning reps Ben Ballard, Jake Majors, and Moro Ojomo, who use their understanding of player needs to coordinate with athletic department administrators.
"After seeing the work that Alan and the Mobile Loaves & Fishes team do at Community First! Village, I couldn't help but want to get involved,” said Robinson in a press release. “It saddens me when I see someone living on the street, and I always try to do as much as I can, but this partnership with Den allows me to help at a higher level. I hope others will be inspired by the CFV story as much as I am, and will join us in making an impact on the Austin community.”
Community First! Village operates a neighborhood of nearly 30 acres, eventually totaling 51 when Phase II of the master plan is complete. The current capacity at Phase I can support more than 200 formerly homeless residents (with disabilities, who meet the standards for chronic homelessness), and folds those residents into a mostly self-sufficient community. Residents take jobs around the neighborhood, and people from surrounding communities are encouraged to visit for events like movie nights, markets, and voting.
The efforts of Community First! Village are deeply in line with those of the Den Foundation, which emphasizes the same goals to provide shelter, champion a healthy artistic community, and provide important advancement opportunities in education. Both organizations work on a foundational belief in well-rounded community care.
“The Den Foundation is honored to be partnering up with Bijan Robinson in our efforts to support Community First! Village,” said Den Foundation Director Jonny Rodgers. “Bijan is a world-class athlete no doubt, but it was his character and faith that made this an easy partnership. We’re proud to stand with Bijan in our efforts to eradicate homelessness right here in Austin, Texas. And remember … what starts here, changes the world!”
A tracker showing Robinson’s yardage since the beginning of the initiative is available at den5for5.com.