If you lived in Austin in the late 1980’s, you knew Homer the Homeless Goose. Homer was the mascot for a groundswell of community organizing on behalf of the homeless. Homer’s celebrity was shepherded along by a group of activists including Lori Renteria, wife of current Council Member Pio Renteria, who served as Homer’s self-proclaimed Godmother. In the early days, the group would bring Homer to Council meetings and other political events threatening to eat him if Austin didn’t address the basic needs of the homeless. There were a number of presentations that sprinkled in references to Homer as a “cooked goose,” and other bird puns. Eventually, as Austin’s leaders initiated a variety of programs, Homer was “freed.”
Homer actually loved the attention. I saw him at many events and he willingly allowed his handlers to carry him in marches or to hold him at the podium as they testified on ongoing issues of homelessness. After the initial notoriety, he continued to make the rounds for many months as the “Formerly Homeless” Homer. From my days on the farm, I can say that not many geese would have been as friendly and approachable. Homer eventually was retired to a local animal shelter where he died last year at the ripe age of 27.
This week, the Austin Statesman ran several stories on Homer’s “resurrection.” In a weird, but oddly fitting tribute to this remarkable animal and the cause he came to symbolize, Homer’s body has been stuffed and preserved. A local taxidermist donated its services. Lori and her activist team have fitted out an appropriate display case and Homer is ready again to hit the road for the homeless. Post-death, the journey for Homer began once again at City Hall. The Statesman video shows his departure as he is moved to a trailer to begin new travels.