I had an extraordinary experience today going out to feed with a different mobile soup kitchen, SoupMobile, run by David Timothy, also known as SoupMan. His group feeds lunch five days a week to people who are homeless and goes to where they live, under bridges or beside dumpsters. We were able to spend plenty of time at the stops talking to people about their needs and concerns.
David is extremely dedicated to ‘his people’ and has an exceptional rapport with them. He visits them in jail when they’ve been arrested for sleeping in public; goes to see them in hospital when they’re ill; knows which couples have broken up because somebody’s in rehab and somebody isn’t. He really seems to have people’s trust.
I finally had the opportunity to visit the large homeless encampment under a bridge with SoupMobile today, unveiling to me another chapter in the homeless story here in Dallas. It seems to be a fairly stable community, complete with a porta potty and trash cans, and even has a de facto political structure, complete with a ‘mayor,’ Mack, whom I met. He’s a friendly man, and I get the idea that he looks after things and helps keep life in the camp peaceful.
As we were driving away from the camp, I thought I recognized the street corner where I’d met Candace and Patrick! David agreed to stop and check on them. I got out of the van, climbed the steps and called their names. It was the first time I’d seen their house in daylight. It consisted of a jumble of boards, sheets of tin and plastic, and some wire.
The rest of the SoupMobile team got out of the van too, but, seeing no one, we were turning to go when I heard a high-pitched shriek and wheeled around to see Candace bolting full tilt across the yard towards us, her arms waving wildly over her head. She was laughing happily and looked like a gleeful child running for the ice cream truck.
“Do you remember me?” I asked her, “I came by here on Holy Saturday.” She jumped up and down in delight. “Yes, you’re the lady who gave me the bedspreads and pillows! Oh, you should see how I’ve got them all propped around my house! It’s just beautiful! I feel so cozy. I love my new stuff so much. You’re that lady. Sure, I know you!” Once again, her open spirit was contagious. The others gathered around, and I introduced everyone.
David had already bagged up a generous sack of food for their little camp and was giving it to them, when Candace burst out with the news that they’d been robbed the night before. “They took everything, even my Bible!” she told us. The loss of her Bible was the thing that upset her most. The shoes she was wearing were battered, formerly-pink terry cloth house slippers. She got me aside and told me the thieves had even stolen her underwear. “I’ll get you some clothes,” I promised her.
At that moment Patrick appeared, very cordial as before, and she introduced him proudly to my friends. We expressed our regrets over the robbery, and David promised to bring them food the following week. One of the volunteers, Matt, offered to get Candace a new Bible.
We said our goodbyes and left them, full of that happiness which genuine connection with people can bring. Odd coincidence that we showed up just after they’d been robbed and were in such need.
[to be continued]