The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Displacement and Community November 28, 2008


Friday, November 28, 2008

Reflecting upon the sense of community I often feel at the Bridge homeless assistance center in the Second Chance Cafe, I came across the following.  There can scarcely be a more displaced group than the homeless community, and yet so often it feels like family to me, even when, like this evening, there are so many new, unfamiliar faces which come through the food line.  KS



“The word community generally expresses a certain supportive and nurturing way of living and working together….  If we want to reflect on community in the context of compassion, we must go far beyond these spontaneous associations [of sentimentalism, romanticism, and even melancholy].  Community can never be the place where God’s obedient servanthood reveals itself if community is understood principally as something warm, soft, homey, comfortable, or protective.  When we form community primarily to heal personal wounds, it cannot become the place where we effectively realize solidarity with other people’s pains….

The call to community as we hear it from our Lord is the call to move away from the ordinary and proper places….  The Gospels confront us with this persistent voice inviting us to move away from where it is comfortable, from where we want to stay, from where we feel at home….

Why is this so central?  It is central because in voluntary displacement, we cast off the illusion of ‘having it together’ and thus begin to experience our true condition, which is that we, like everyone else, are pilgrims on the way, sinners in need of grace.  [Thus] we counteract the tendency to become settled in false comfort and to forget the fundamentally unsettled position that we share with all people….  [which] leads us to the existential recognition of our inner brokenness and thus brings us to a deeper solidarity with the brokenness of our fellow human beings….  The Greek word for church, ekklesia — from ek = out, and kaleo = call — indicates that as a Christian community we are people who together are called out of our familiar places to unknown territories, out of our ordinary and proper places to the places where people hurt and where we can experience with them our common human brokenness and our common need for healing.”

            ~~Compassion, A Reflection on the Christian Life, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison


Twenty-Nine November 25, 2008

Filed under: inspiration,Leadership,Taoism — Karen Shafer @ 7:29 pm

Tuesday, November 25, 2008



“Do you think that you can take over the universe and improve it?

I do not believe it can be done.


The universe is sacred.

You cannot improve it.

If you try to change it, you will ruin it.

If you try to hold it, you will lose it.


So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;

Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;

Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;

Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.


Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.”

                                                                                               ~~Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu


Economic Reality at Wilkinson Center Food Pantry’s Doorstep November 20, 2008


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brian Burton, Executive Director of the Wilkinson Center in East Dallas, writes a mean fund-raising letter. Even after totaling up my credit card debt this week and nearly falling off the chair, I read this and found myself writing out a [pitifully small] check.  Brian’s also one of the nicest people around, which makes one glad to help, and the Wilkinson Center does a super job at all that it does.  I reprint his letter with permission.  KS

The Wilkinson Center

               “Do all you can for everyone who needs your help.  Don’t tell your neighbor to come back tomorrow, if you can help today.”  ~~ Proverbs 3: 27-28

November 14, 2008

Dear Friend of the Wilkinson Center:


Yesterday, I got a heavy dose of the new economic reality.  As I made my way through the Center, I observed in the Food Pantry service area every seat taken — and, there were families standing along the walls waiting.  The reality of our economy is at the Wilkinson Center’s doorstep.

As you plan for your charitable giving this Thanksgiving season, I respectfully ask that you, once again, consider the Wilkinson Center deserving of your support.  Because of a generous matching gift from local foundations, every dollar you give will be matched up to $250,000! [by the Harold Simmons Foundation and the Ginger Murchison Foundation]  …We will always strive to be good stewards of your investment in our shared mission to help those less fortunate.


If you’d like to see your gift at work please contact me for a tour.  Thank you for being a member of our Wilkinson Center family.


Faithfully yours, in service,

Brian Burton, Executive Director, P.O. Box 720248, Dallas, TX 75372, 5200 Bryan St., Dallas, TX 75206, 214-821-6380


Another ‘S.T.E.P.’ in the Right Direction November 14, 2008


Friday, November 14, 2008

Here is a recent good-news email from Jean Jones, Director of Volunteers at the Stewpot:


Nov. 11, 2008, 4:31 PM

Dear Stew Pot Volunteers:

A story of success and hope we want to share…


Last Friday, during the lunch meal service, a big six foot, 40-something guest named Mike literally skipped into the dining hall, his feet barely touching the ground and a huge smile on his face. “I have to tell you – I got it!  I got a JOB!!”, he cried joyfully.  We all cheered and congratulated him and asked “how?” and “where?”. “Right here”, he replied, pointing proudly to his ball cap, emblazoned with the logo of a new Cajun restaurant chain. “I got it off the Stewpot Jobs Hotline.  I’m a cook, fulltime, forty hours a week. I got me a room. I’m going to save my money and move on up!”


Do you remember the first time you said those words?…”I got a job”… the feeling of pride, the sense of accomplishment. Most everyone wants a job, including our homeless friends – to work, make money, care for themselves and build a future. In these economic times the job market is tough, even more so for them.


The Stewpot Transitional Employment Program (STEP)  focuses on preparing persons who are experiencing homelessness with job-readiness skills leading to employment. We need partners in the business world that will consider giving these folks a chance once they complete the three month STEP program.


Attached is a flyer outlining the STEP program. Please consider it, pass it along to your employer and to anyone that might be able to assist with this program. You are all on the “front line” serving the homeless with the basic need of a hot meal. Let’s work together to take them a step further…to a job and independence… out of homelessness.


As always, Thank you to everyone for all you do to serve “the least of these”, our friends in need.


Jean Jones,  Director of Volunteers,  The Stewpot      

 214-746-2785, ext. 320                                                                          


About the S.T.E.P. Program:


The  S.T.E.P. Program

Stewpot Transitional Employment Program

Your company’s regular volunteer work at The Bridge on behalf of the Stewpot is just part of the work The Stewpot and other volunteers do to help those experiencing homelessness make it through the day and try to get a better life. 

Our S.T.E.P. (Stewpot Transitional Employment Program) program focuses on preparing persons who are experiencing homelessness with job-readiness skills, leading to employment. We need partners in the business world that will consider giving these clients a chance once they graduate from our 3 month program. We have clients wanting work in customer service, warehouse, data entry, security, janitorial/maintenance, restaurant and IT work and most are looking at entry level positions.  

Please talk to your company’s decision maker and try to get me an appointment. I would love to discuss this program and what we are doing to help our clients become tax paying citizens who are happy about what they are doing and once employed can lock a door behind them at night for the very first time in a long time. 

With the assistance of a vocational rehabilitative consultant we designed a 90-day program to address the issues that were causing Stewpot clients to lose their jobs. The curriculum is designed for behavioral modification through inter/intra personal growth. We have learned that the # 1 reason persons have lost jobs was related to confrontations with superiors and co-workers. Our classes focus on how to turn that around – how to resolve conflicts. Persons who have fallen between the cracks, to the extent that they have become chronically homeless, are all the more benefited by this approach to emotional stability and pursuit of employment. This makes S.T.E.P. very unique in the employment assistance field. The subjects covered are:

Rational Beliefs: 10 Common Irrational Beliefs

Thinking Errors: 10 Ways to Untwist Your Thinking

Common Self-Defeating Behaviors:   Self-Talk Correction

Using “I” Statements Correctly:  Dealing With Difficult People

5 Secrets of Effective Communication:  Developing Your Skills Language

Using Your Transferable Skills:  Job Interview Tips

Communication is Key to Working With Supervisors

Surviving On Your New Job

You’ve heard it said, 

“The homeless wouldn’t be homeless if they just got a job”

Here is your chance to help them get a job so they can help themselves!

Please contact Larry Sykes

Director Community Voice Mail & STEP Jobs Coordinator

214-746-2785, ext. 248,


Guest Commentary: Robert Blass November 10, 2008

Filed under: Christianity,Guest Commentary,healing,inspiration,peace — Karen Shafer @ 10:16 pm


Freedom Of Or From Religion?  What Does It Mean?


Freedom of or from religion?  What does it mean?  It means we are a nation of choices. It means we are a democratic nation with the freedom to choose or not choose what God, Bible or written word we follow. We are a multi-culture and multi-religious country.


Freedom of choice, freedom of marriage and legislation to combat discrimination against people is a constitutional right meant to be protected by the government, not taken away by extremist religious groups. If we fail to protect those Civil Rights then we are no better than many of the countries we criticize.


We practice bigotry imposed on others who do not practice the religion or beliefs of some; made even worse, when that bigotry produces its own brand of terrorism right here within our own borders. That terrorism includes the lack of caring for our fellow man and their freedoms which allows many to suffer shamelessly. Historically our country has a pattern of doing this and even though we have learned and corrected ourselves through the years, we continue to get caught in new practices of bigotry that replace the old. It serves no purpose to take away rights based on religious beliefs that have no effect on the right to practice our personal beliefs and it contradicts the freedoms our country is based on. It should never be a matter of my way or no way.


I am a Christian who believes I answer to my God daily. I am a Christian who accepts others as they are and even thought they may not believe as I do, I love them anyway.  I am a Christian who believes that my love and example will show the way for them to find the same path to Christ I have found. I am a Christian who knows I can pray anytime, anywhere I choose. I am a Christian who makes personal life choices based on my beliefs. I am a Christian who believes I can lead by example and pray that others will follow but I do not expect the government to force my way on others.  Will we ever learn?


My way is NOT the fundamentalist extremist way. What kind of Christian are you?


May God Bless America!


Robert Blass


Thanks to Pat Spradley of the Stewpot’s Street Zine for sending this my way.  KS  []


The Urgent Importance of Parent Education November 1, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008


The Urgent Importance of Parent Education


When I say I think there’s no social issue that’s more important than parent education, I mean it literally.


Have you ever been in a grocery store and seen a parent jerking or smacking around a child?  Have you struggled with how to intervene without making the situation worse?  Have you been the parent who reacts to your child in a way that you’re less than proud of?  WHO HASN’T???


Almost always, a few simple skills or ‘tricks of the parenting trade’ can make a dramatic difference in the way we react, or don’t react, to our children and, in turn, in the way they respond to us.  Diffusing a stressful situation rather than reacting with resistance and anger can make all the difference in the outcome.  But it’s difficult or impossible to do this if you don’t know how, and even harder if you ‘don’t know that you don’t know’.  


Also, stress and fatigue can play a big role in parenting, so self-care is essential, something it’s taken me way too long to learn.  My friend, David, has told me often, ‘put the oxygen mask on yourself first and on your child second, just like in an airplane emergency.’  I thought this was an oversimplification until I really thought it through and lived it through.  It’s actually quite profound.


This relates to homelessness in a very direct way.  So often when I talk with people who are homeless, particularly those who’ve been on the street for a long time, I’ll hear some reference to being ‘knocked around’ as a child.  They are not complaining.  They think that’s the way the world is.  And on some level, they seem to feel they ‘had it coming.’


I was impacted by a comment on this blog made by David Scott in response to the post, “Looking For And Finding Good Things”:

“Contrary to popular belief, most homeless did not become so out of choice. Most did not become homeless because they are lazy, stupid, or immoral. Many homeless people are victims of abuse in the form of neglect and abandonment by their parents or other caregivers.  Like many victims of abuse, a lot of them have chemical dependency problems. Their existence is so miserable that they use alcohol or other drugs as an escape.”  [blog:]


I remember a billboard I saw in my hometown almost a decade ago which read something like:  “Spend money on parenting and education in early childhood, or spend it on prisons later.”  Dramatic and simple but profoundly true.  I look around me and see so many costly social problems that began in early childhood.


Recently my older daughter sought and found a book that addressed a particular issue she was having with one of her children.  When she changed her behavior with him, his behavior changed noticeably for the better.  What impressed me most was that she moved, actively, to find a solution, and was willing to examine her own part in the puzzle and make changes in the way she approached her child, which led to changes in him.


To be human is to have problems.  To be wise is to move to solve them.  I wish parenting classes were a mandatory part of parenthood, but, alas, there comes the issue of yet another government program.  I heard a report on National Public Radio tonight on an organization called “Roots of Empathy” and the positive impact it is having on reducing bullying among the population it serves.  The report emphasized that the most important aspect of any relationship is empathy.  If we don’t feel the ‘other’ has pain and that their pain matters, we have no problem inflicting suffering on them. []


This also made me think of our homeless friends.  So often, we think it’s ‘them’ and ‘us’… until we meet them face to face, and see that they are us.  Empathy.