The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

For To You December 28, 2009

Filed under: and a little child shall lead them,Christianity — Karen Shafer @ 9:23 pm

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 2009


For To You


“And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you;  you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’”


Luke 2:  10-12


Merry Christmas!

 

Streamlined December 12, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Written December 2, 2009

Streamlined


“Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.”

~~ Matthew 5:42

My friend, Gabriela, who owns a lovely cafe in my neighborhood, has a streamlined method of communicating with me about clothing she collects for our neighbors experiencing homelessness downtown, because she’s done this kind deed so often.  Her e-mail says simply:  “Hey there, I have some male and female clothing items – shall i take them to your house?  pls advise.”  They appear at my house shortly, and I put them in the trunk of my car.

Shopping at Target tonight, I walk out into a cold rain, and an impulse tells me that this is the night.  Moving the clothes — two large bags — from my trunk into my front seat, I head to a place where I know people are sleeping outdoors under cardboard.

On my way, I drive through downtown, and the streets are whistle-clean of humans.  That means every single person without a home has a bed tonight, doesn’t it?  All six (or is it ten?) thousand of them?  Or have they somehow magically been swept away?

I say the streets are clear of human beings, but on a St. Paul Street corner, I pass woman with a small child knocking on the door at Family Gateway.  Since it is cold, dark and almost bedtime, I stop my car beside them.  ‘Do you have a place inside the Center already reserved?’  I ask the young mother.  ‘Yes, I have a room.  I go to school at night.  We just can’t get anybody to come to the door.  We’ve been here quite a while.’  ‘Let me call someone,’ I tell her.  ‘If you can’t get in, I’ll take you somewhere.’  I call my friend, Clare — who knows everything about helping people — to get a phone number for Crisis Intervention, realize I already have one, and just then, inside the glass door of the Center, a woman holding an infant opens the door for the mother and her little boy.  Thank God for the place.  Thank God when things work.

I drive to the encampment — a small gathering of cardboard-box houses — pull up and stop the car.  I haven’t been here for a while — the camp looks very sparse:  streamlined, as though it’s been cut down to its barest bare essentials.  It’s quite dark — not a spark of a campfire on this cold wet night.  I roll down my passenger window and ask the first woman who approaches if H. is there, a man whom I know I can trust.  She says, ‘I’m Samarah.  First I want to pray with you.’

I start to get out, but she says, ‘Just stay in the car,’ and takes my hand through the window, across the seat.  She talks for a while, then asks for prayers about her alcoholism.  I offer her some clothes.  ‘Na, I’m all right,’ she says.

A second woman says, ‘I’m ___’s wife — I just got out of TDC.’ (Texas Department of Corrections)  She shows me her nametag, as though I won’t believe her, and says ‘I don’t have anything.  Do you have hygiene stuff or underwear?’  Yes, in one of the bags, I say, and wonder, not for the first time:  what can be gained by releasing women from prison with absolutely nothing?  Maybe we feel their lives need to be as streamlined as possible when they’re starting over.

H. walks up.  He looks thinner, is in his sock feet.  I greet him, embrace him, and hand him the bags of clothes.  ‘You’ll share them out, right?’ I say to him, but he’s already ducking back inside their cardboard house with them in tow.

The wife looks into my car and asks, ‘What else do you have?’  I hand her some whole wheat bagels from my Target shopping.  H. comes back out and I give him a bag of Christmas M&M Peanuts I got at Target.  Now, THIS ONE THING feels sacrificial!  Everything else is easy, but giving away my Christmas M&M Peanuts, a generous handful of which I was planning to eat in the car…  that’s the TRUE measure of my love!  Ah, well, maybe without them I’ll be more…  streamlined.

Samarah introduces me to her boyfriend.  In a streamlined repetition of a conversation we’ve had a number of times over years, I ask H.:  ‘Has the City been here?’  ‘A few days ago,’ he replies briefly, ‘Wiped us out.’

I.  Somehow.  Don’t.  Feel.  That.  Much.  Because.  Things.  Don’t. Change.  Do.  They.  Just.  Numb.  Can.  I.  Not.  Work.  Up.  Any.  Outrage?

My emotions seem to have become streamlined, too.

Then, later, reading at bedtime, I am visited by an at-first-unnamed sadness.  Reflexively I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?  Everything’s fine.’  But soon I realize the sorrow is a familiar one and has been there all night — it was just hiding, tucked down inside me, the same way I’m tucked into my cozy bed with my book, down comforter and quilt.  I know then that I’m being visited there in my room by that ragged and rugged band of individuals who cling to a cold, hard, windswept stretch of sidewalk somewhere in Dallas, squeezed down to the barest minimum of space between a chain-link fence and a gutter — and who struggle to hold on to the LIFE and to the COMMUNITY they’ve created there.

We may not like their lives, the way they look, or how they conduct themselves.  But.

IF we are going to raid and raid and raid and raid and attempt to shut down the camps, THEN we need to be able to offer Housing First in a form that their inhabitants can deal with.

I.   Guess.  I’ll.  Just.  Keep.  Saying.  It.

KS

View Kim Horner’s latest Dallas Morning News article on housing for homeless individuals (one in an occasional series) here:

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/121309dnmethomeless.4003d95.html

 

What a Night! December 4, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009


Dallas International Street Church Celebrates It’s Twelfth Anniversary


Last evening, the Dallas International Street Church and Ministries celebrated it’s Twelfth Anniversary, and the event at the church at 2706 Second Avenue was great fun, quite moving and extremely inspiring.  Founder and Senior Pastor Karen Dudley got the ‘call’ twelve years ago to minister to her sisters and brothers who are living on the street — truly out of options — and she has, from then to now, answered that call with a love, persistence and dedication few could emulate.

The music, as always at the DISC, was of the ‘make-you-wanna-get-up,-dance-and-shout-hallelujah’ variety.  You can’t not clap and sing along, and, if you’re not careful, you’ll soon find yourself on your feet, even if it is a formal do, like last night.  My favorite entertainment was the Praise Dance, reminiscent of Martha Graham done with great reverence.

Needless to say, the most moving part of the night was the series of stories and testimonies from the church Discipleship relating how Pastor Karen’s love and faith have helped them to relinquish the darkness in which they were living and to begin walking a clean, clear path of faith and action in Christ.  The stories are stunning.  One of the women began her testimony with the words:  “My background is in prostitution and crack addiction.”  When she described how Pastor Karen once walked into a local drug house to get her and said, “You’re coming with me,” I doubt there was a dry eye in the room.

City Councilperson Carolyn Davis attended the party, and she seemed moved by what she learned of the Street Ministry.  In her speech, she said, “When I’ve driven by this building in the past, I’ve had no idea of all that was going on here.  I’m committed to helping you in any way I can.  This is what church should be:  helping the poor and needy among us.”

I don’t know how Pastor Karen does it, but she seems to go forward on the rocky and extremely challenging path she’s chosen with a humility and lack of ego that are rare in the nonprofit world.  But, if you ask her, she’ll brush aside the question with the quick answer, “It’s not me doing it.”

The event was organized by Pastor Karen, the church Discipleship, and church Business Manager Judith Sturrock, and they all did a superb job.  We had delicious barbecue dinner and a wonderful time, and, as always when I show up at the DISC, I took away with me a peace and a joy which pass all understanding.

KS

www.kdministries.org

To read about a recent experience Dr. Janet Morrison (Central Dallas Ministries Director of Education) had at the Dallas International Street Church, click here:

http://janetmorrison.blogspot.com/2009/11/whats-in-your-community.html

Praise Dance at DISC 12th Anniversary Party

 

Perspective: Carlos Gomez December 1, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


My friend Carlos sent me this poem, which he’s given me permission to share…


The Million Dollar Band-aid

 

Our world has lots of problems that come in different ways

The affliction of each one is harmful to the human race

Disease and hunger, religion and war; erasing people; removing them from the world.

 We try to fix all that is wrong, and yet the problems go on

Love is still alive trying to survive, it brings a little hope

Yet all our money and all our effort’s are just a band-aid in this global problem.

We are living in the days were even pain feels pain

Were darkness is seen as light, do what you want if it feels right.

The blood of the innocent is crying out; why did I die before my time.

Our cities are overwhelmed with homeless people every where

A card board is now their home the sky above a concrete road

Awaken nation, awaken world lets change this nightmare, let’s fix our world.

A million dollars and a prayer are just a band aid, still the problem’s there

Have we become immune to the violence and to the homeless everywhere?

It is a corporate world, one that cares more for the buildings and structures then for its own people.

Danger, danger beware; if we don’t care, the problems that are there will only get worse.

  A million dollars and a prayer but if God isn’t there our problems are not going any where.

 

By Carlos Gomez 11-2009