David Bustamante, senior project manager at South Austin nonprofit El Buen Samaritano, got into his chosen field in part because of his father.

Bustamante’s father, a retired veteran who served for 20 years, grew up in an orphanage without access to basic essential needs and dealt with structural racism throughout his life, Bustamante said. His father’s experience is part of what sparked Bustamante to pursue a career in health care, working to break the generational chain of inequality in Austin and Central Texas.

“In a way it’s me giving back to that and hopefully inspiring others to give back in similar ways,” Bustamante said.

El Buen Samaritano—which translates to “The Good Samaritan”—has been in the Austin community since 1987, when the Episcopal Diocese of Texas founded the nonprofit to serve Latino families in the area. El Buen started by providing food, clothing and literacy classes. Today, its mission has evolved.

El Buen combats challenges its clients face through a social justice framework, working to improve the factors of a social environment that affect health and dismantle the inequalities that are damaging the wellness of the communities the nonprofit serves.

One strategy El Buen uses to achieve its mission is financial assistance programs. From March 2020 to March 2021, the nonprofit has completed eight financial assistance programs and is working through five others. So far, it has been able to distribute more than $6 million total to households and individuals who have experienced impacts from COVID-19 and the February winter storm in the form of Visa gift cards to help families recover from the winter storm, rent relief, relocation assistance, help with moving or storage costs and more.

Bustamante said once the pandemic shut down Austin, El Buen had to quickly figure out not only how to adjust its service model, but also learn how to provide immediate emergency services.

“We all sat downstairs in our lobby and figured out a way to provide our most essential service, our food pantry, via a drive-thru service model,” Bustamante said. “Since then, we have applied that model to almost all of our services.”

Applications are still open for El Buen’s rental assistance programs and tenant-stabilization programs. While El Buen focuses on the Latino and Spanish-speaking community, the resources are available to all. Bustamante said there is one value El Buen holds that threads all of its services together.

“One big thing that sticks out in all of this is what we are committed to and that is recognizing the dignity of all,” Bustamante said. “We are not trying to judge someone or contribute to a person’s loss of sense of self or to more pain.”

Bustamante identifies as someone who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community and said his family’s acceptance is an instrumental part of his drive to work in health and wellness.

“Oftentimes, especially in the Latino community, we see a lot of families that may not understand LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. Something I really enjoy about El Buen is that through our work we strive to create an environment where not only Latino families are welcome but all families and individuals are welcome,” he said.