The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Living on the Street in Los Angeles, Islamabad, Nairobi, Rio and London June 24, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

 

Living on the Street in Los Angeles, Islamabad, Nairobi, Rio and London

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02tmcvp

What is it like to live on the streets? An estimated 100 million people are homeless around the world. And those are the ones who are counted; a similar number is not thought to be part of any official statistic. To get a sense of what their lives are like, World Have Your Say spent time on the streets of Los Angeles, Islamabad, Nairobi, Rio and London to hear a series of intimate and revealing personal stories.

Shanaz is living in a small tent in Islamabad with her husband and seven children. “We just survive,” she says. “What am I supposed to expect for the future of my children?”

“I’ve got a nice little spot on the street,” Brant explains. He has been living on Skid Row in LA for 16 years, on and off. “I appreciate what I have.”

In Nairobi, they meet a woman who went from drug user to doctor. “Growing up as a street child I saw how health was an issue. I saw it as a platform to solve some of those problems. People can be moved from the street; you can never take away their hope. ”

 

 

Those Who Risk Everything: Noble May 5, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

 

Those Who Risk Everything:  Noble

 

http://thenoblemovie.com/?utm_campaign=Dillon%20International%27s%20May%202015%20e-news&utm_source=Robly.com&utm_medium=email

 

“Give Me a Shot of Anything” April 6, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

“Give Me a Shot of Anything:  House Calls to the Homeless”

I find these video clips to be riveting.  What do you think?

Night Time House Calls

http://www.givemeashotofanything.com/#!videos/vstc6=night-time-house-calls

Trailer

http://www.givemeashotofanything.com/#!videos/vstc6=extended-teaser

The Film Maker

http://www.givemeashotofanything.com/#!videos/vstc6=newfilmmakers

The Website

http://www.givemeashotofanything.com/#!

Boston Health Care for the Homeless

http://www.bhchp.org

 

Bear Witness September 3, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bear Witness

          “Bear witness to injustices that result in poor health, and work to remove those injustices and build health equity.  This is what healers owe society.  And this is what our society desperately needs at this moment in time.”

                                     ~~  Jessie M Gaeta, M.D.,  Medical Director of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program

                                                Commencement Address, Boston University School of Medicine Convocation, 2013

 

You Can’t… August 26, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

 

Wise Words From Someone Who Knows…

“You can’t preach [the Gospel] to someone who is starving.

You can’t entertain people who are dying.”

~~  Pastor Karen Dudley, Founder and Senior Pastor, Dallas International Street Church

 

Cold Feet March 20, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

 

Cold Feet

by Karen Shafer

 

Although it’s cold here on the New England lake where I’m staying with my family — in the thirties — the weather has not stopped my ten-year-old grandson, Louis, from organizing family rowing parties on the lake the past two days.  It goes without saying that he’s the ship’s captain, which is almost certainly a motivating factor for any ten-year-old.  He’s enthusiastic about being in charge and even got his mother to go out rowing this morning when it was 29 degrees!

 

As a family, we’ve rowed across the lake twice this weekend and staked our claim, like settlers, on the shore of an island or promontory, which my grandson has dubbed ‘New Louis.’  (Please don’t tell the people in the waterside mansions up the hill from where we landed that new settlers have arrived:  they no doubt think they own the land.)  Today when he, his eight-year-old sister, Anna, his father and I made ‘the crossing’, it was 37 degrees and also quite windy — and we were rowing into the cold wind and against the waves.  At times, it seemed seemed to me that we were either going backwards or sitting still in the middle of the lake, paddling our hardest, and I thought, “Hmm, making this crossing yesterday was really fun, but this is starting to feel a little like actual work.”

 

Eventually, though, we gained the coast of New Louis and clambered ashore — or rather, they leaped, and I crawled.  While the other three first scrambled up a pine tree that had been blown over and uprooted to a 45-degree angle by a recent storm, then went off hiking, I sat on a wall, regretting the fact that I’d left my winter boots in Boston.  My feet in tennis shoes and cotton socks had gotten damp from water in the bottom of the boat, and how cold they now felt became the full focus of my attention, delighted though I was with the outing and with our newly conquered territory.

 

I soon figured out that, though the temperature was in the mid-thirties, if I took off my damp socks and shoes and sat barefoot with my feet under a pile of dry leaves and grass, my feet were warmer and I was more comfortable than I was sitting in wet shoes.  I hung my damp socks on a branch to ‘dry’ and piled more dry pine needles over the ‘nest’ into which I’d pushed my feet.  Chastising myself for being a wimp and a whiner did nothing to erase the fact that nothing seemed more important to me than how cold my feet felt.  And I had only been out in the wind and damp for about forty-five minutes… an hour max.

 

As I sat on the wall pondering what a softie I’ve become in middle age, I began to think of our homeless brothers and sisters, out on the street in similar weather and that which is much more severe.  I remembered how, in times past when I’ve been around homeless people in the winter, there’s nothing they’ve seemed to need more — and nothing which is more often lacking — than clean dry socks and shoes, and I recalled how charities serving the homeless population often emphasize this.  Being in New England, I thought of sock drives sponsored by the Boston Red Sox.  I vowed that the next time I show up at a service provider which helps homeless people, I’ll do so with at least a pack if not an armload of white athletic socks…  and I wistfully and pitifully imagined borrowing one of those pairs of socks for myself at that moment, just until we got back to the house.

 

My family came back from their hike, and we rowed back across the lake… with the wind this time, and in a quarter of the time, thank goodness.  I did more reflecting as we paddled;  the rhythm of the oars moving through the water was conducive to it.  I thought about how comfort-dependent I am, especially as I get older — and, indeed, what comfortable lives most of us middle-class Americans live.  How pampered we are, and how miserable it must be to be homeless, living on the street, and know that you are facing hours, days of cold, wet feet.  How does one cope with that?

 

We reached the small sandy beach in front of the house where we are staying, pulled the rowboat onto shore, traversed the yard and entered the lovely, warm, dry house.  I rushed straight to my slippers and greeted them with a sense of appreciation and affection I’d forgotten I could feel for shoes.

 

KS

 

A Message From Karen Dudley & The Dallas International Street Church August 15, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

 

Personal Message 

from 

Pastor Karen   

 “Where there is no vision the people perish”

Proverbs 29:18

In talking with more and more youth there seems to be a lack of vision for their generation.  Many are meandering through life without purpose or goals.  With this mindset it should come as no suprise that many find themselves in bondage to drugs, alcohol, cutting and abusive relationships.  In other words they are perishing. And adults are no better in that they suffer from the same emptiness.  No vision.  Thats where the church stands in and and cast the vision of God before His people in order that they may get a vision for themselves, their marriage, their family, etc. If we want to stop the perishing in our communities then we the church must begin to cast the vision of God but before we can do that we must first have a vision of God ourselves.

 

 

 

Small Things With Great Love December 19, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

 

Small Things With Great Love

 

My son-in-law sent me this story today.  What these two people are doing is not small, but the love they express — each in her or his own way — is great indeed.  It reminds me, despite the difficulties in the world, that there are people out there quietly doing wonderful things every day.  KS

 

 

 

 

Austrian chef, Catholic nun are spirit behind Trinity Cafe

Monday, December 19, 2011 01:16:00 AM

Dec. 19–TAMPA — Alfred Astl frets a lot.

And with good reason: He’s the chef at Trinity Cafe, a restaurant that serves the homeless and working poor in downtown Tampa. He operates on a razor-thin budget, stretching pennies instead of dollars, in order to feed the growing throng of hungry people who come for a free noontime meal Monday through Friday.

“He always thinks he’s going to run out, which he never does,” confides Sister Maureen Dorr, the 81-year-old Franciscan nun who stopped in to volunteer 10 years ago and never left.

“I tell him not to worry. I happen to know another man who multiplied. He really had a way with loaves and fishes, and so does Alfred.”

That’s how it is with the Austrian chef with the serious demeanor and the fun-spirited Catholic sister who’s a bit of a flirt. They are the yin and yang of Trinity Cafe. He does the nourishing — creating innovative and well-balanced meals from soup to dessert at about $2 a serving. She does the nurturing — walking among the homeless guests to dispense hugs, give counsel and offer prayers.

“Sister Maureen is an angel on earth. And Chef Alfred is a grizzly with the heart of a teddy bear,” says Cindy Davis, program director. “They are the heart and soul of the cafe. To have them working here together is a real blessing for us and every guest who works through the door.”

Neither seeks out attention. But they got it anyway last month.

Sister Maureen was named a local hero by Bank of America, which came with a $5,000 check. Astl, 61, was chosen as a community hero by the Tampa Bay Lightning — an honor that came with a $50,000 award. Both directed their winnings to the cafe’s food account.

Davis says the windfall came at a time when the nonprofit needs it the most.

The cafe’s $455,000 annual budget — which depends on donations and grants — is being challenged by an increase in the number of people it serves. The limit was supposed to be 200 meals a day; that’s jumped to about 230. And looming in the future is a $650,000 project that will allow the cafe to relocate from its current cramped quarters at the Salvation Army to its own permanent building in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood.

When the cafe eventually moves, it will be open seven days a week. And it will keep that same “dining with dignity” tradition, using volunteers from churches and community organizations to serve patrons at tables covered in white cloths and set with silverware.

That’s a touch Astl insists upon.

Before coming to Trinity Cafe, he spent 35 years in the hotel and food industry, honing his skills as a chef in exclusive settings from Aspen to New York. He worked at a Four Seasons, country clubs, high-end inns and corporations. He owned his own continental restaurant in Tampa with wife, Sandy. He worked for the late George Steinbrenner’s Yankee Trader at Bay Harbor Inn. For four years, he served as division chef for five Rusty Pelican restaurants.

But for all the prestige and money that came with his career, Astl got burned out. He missed out on seeing his two sons grow up. Working six or seven days a week, sometimes 18 hours a day, took a toll on his health.

Then he saw the help wanted ad for a chef to work “five days a week, lunch only.” He thought it would be a nice break for a little while. That was 10 years ago.

Obviously, there are differences. He doesn’t deal in ahi tuna or Kobe beef anymore. He haggles with food proprietors on the cost of odd-shaped chicken breasts. $1.34 a pound? I’ll give you 60 cents.

Good quality food is a must, he says, “but I have to get it cheap.” And nothing is wasted. Today’s leftover braised corn is tomorrow’s corn chowder. Every meal starts with salad or soup, a healthy portion of protein, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert and a piece of fruit. That same gourmet style he developed when working in exclusive restaurants is reflected here.

“I approach this the same way I did everything else — I come in and do the best with what I have,” Astl says. “Only I know this is the only meal of the day for these guests.”

While the chef is working his magic in the kitchen, Sister Maureen is making the rounds in the waiting lines and at the tables. Some of the faces are familiar; once a week, she’s at the jail, counseling and ministering to those who ran afoul of the law. She has a special fondness for the men, and often offers herself as a dance partner in the middle of the dining room.

“Stay with God,” she whispers to a bearded man, sitting forlornly against the fence while waiting for the cafe to open. “He won’t abandon you. Don’t give up. He’s here.”

For 40 years, Sister Maureen worked in education as a teacher and administrator. She says this is just another extension of what she has done since entering religious life at age 17.

“St. Francis taught us about living out the gospel and serving the poor,” she says. “But truth is, I don’t minister to them. I minister with them. I firmly believe there are such good people who have had bad opportunities. They show me the way to God as much as I try to show them.”

She acknowledges her advanced age, but quickly dismisses any notion of retirement. “Nuns don’t retire,” she says with a laugh. “We just get recycled. As long as God gives you the health, you keep on moving.”

Yes, Astl and Sister Maureen admit, their personalities are different. He’s all business, quite serious about the balance between pinching pennies and providing a substantive meal. She’s quick to crack jokes and wrap her arms around a lost soul who needs a human’s touch. Both agree that those differences don’t matter. The bond they share — their compassion for the poor — trumps everything.

“She is marvelous,” Astl says with admiration. “Just marvelous how she connects with everyone.”

“And he is a God-centered man,” Sister Maureen says. “Though he doesn’t think he is, I know it’s true.”

 

 

Medicine That Matters October 13, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

 

Medicine That Matters

by Karen Shafer

“The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program’s mission is to provide or assure access to the highest quality health care for all homeless men, women and children in the greater Boston area.”

The lobby of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program at Jean Yawkey Place, with Deshawn Parris, Security Officer, and Shirley Berard, Administrative Assistant

Jean Yawkey Place 

In the summer of 2011, while touring the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, I stepped off the third-floor elevator into Barbara McInnis House, looked around, and began to cry, (and I’m pretty sure it was what Oprah refers to as “the ugly cry”.)  Those accompanying me — my daughter, two of my grandchildren, and our tour guide, Manager of Volunteer Services Carrie Eldridge-Dickson — at first looked at me in surprise.  After all, we were viewing a beautiful, pristine environment decorated in pastels — a state-of-the-art facility which provides “medical respite care”, short-term medical and recuperative services, for homeless men and women in Boston, Massachusetts.  I felt as if I’d stepped into an ideal world.

 

My companions’ surprise turned quickly to understanding.  They shared the comprehension that my tears were in part joyful at what has been accomplished there, but that they also conveyed frustration at how few of our homeless brothers and sisters will ever experience the level of loving and dignified care expressed in the atmosphere surrounding us at that moment.

 

The 104-bed Barbara McInnis House is a medical respite care facility spread throughout three floors of Jean Yawkey Place, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program’s central facility which opened in May of 2008.  The building also houses a primary care walk-in clinic with ten exam rooms and four meeting rooms for mental health care, a dental clinic with five operatories, a pharmacy, office space for “street” and “family” outreach teams, and the organization’s administrative offices.

 

Barbara McInnis House provides 24-hour care for homeless men and women who are too sick for life on the streets or in shelters but not sick enough to occupy acute care rooms in area hospitals.  It has a dining room that serves patients three nutritious meals a day, and a large common area and outdoor patio — all under one roof.

 

The cellar-to-roof renovation of this former city morgue and forensic research facility now addresses the unique medical needs of the city’s homeless men and women.  It was made possible through the combined generosity of private, foundation and corporate donors.  BHCHP raised $42,000,000 in the organization’s only capital campaign in its 26-year history.

 

Model of Care

Jean Yawkey Place sets the stage for the model of ‘integrated care’ practiced at BHCHP.  The organization’s web site, www.BHCHP.org, describes the complex challenge of tackling health care among the vulnerable homeless population.

“Many homeless patients struggle with at least one substance abuse problem, at least one chronic physical condition and a psychiatric illness. Each condition is often preventable and manageable… on its own. But, in combination and left untreated, such health problems become compounded and all too often fatal. Medicine, in general, and homeless medicine, in particular, have long grappled with addressing these interconnected aspects of a patient’s healthcare in a coordinated way. In the traditional care model, behavioral health care and medical care operate independently.

The integrated care model at BHCHP unites physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, case managers and behavioral health professionals in a close collaboration. They follow patients together and separately in a variety of settings: on the street, at Barbara McInnis House, in outpatient clinics and, as needed, in shelter or housing.

A patient can move from street to clinic to hospital to respite care to shelter to housing, having easy and regular contact with at least one member of the medical team so that serious medical and behavioral diagnoses receive integrated attention.”

No homeless person is refused treatment at BHCHP.  The professional staff provides medical treatment to homeless men, women and children at eighty locations across the city — in adult and family shelters; in two hospital-based clinics; in emergency, transitional and permanent-supportive housing; and through home visits to formerly long-term homeless patients who are now housed through the Housing First initiatives in Boston.  They also provide care on the street, in alleyways and under bridges to those “rough sleepers” who avoid shelters.

 

BHCHP’s Beginnings

How does such an impressive result come to be?  An article from the American Journal of Public Health entitled “The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program: A Public Health Framework” talks about its beginnings.  (O’Connell, Oppenheimer, Judge, Taube, Blanchfield, Swain, Koh: August, 2010)

 

In 1984, a community coalition consisting of eighty people representing shelters, homeless service providers, community health centers, nursing and medical schools, state and city governments, homeless persons, and advocacy groups was convened by Boston mayor Raymond Flynn and Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis.  An extensive community needs assessment to identify gaps in existing health care services was then conducted.

 

Initial funding for the program came through a pilot grant of $300,000 annually for four years from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts, subsequently matched by an additional $250,000 annually from the state of Massachusetts.

 

City wide cooperation and ‘buy in’ strikes me right away as a predictor of the program’s probable success, and, in particular, the inclusion of homeless people and their advocates in the planning.  All too often, critical issues of how service is to be conceived and delivered to the homeless community is decided by committees comprised of those who have never experienced homelessness, without ‘grass roots’ input.  Such a comprehensive network early on hopefully precludes the ‘fiefdom’ approach of non profit organizations that can occur in cities, resulting in duplication of services and competition for funding.

 

The Mission of BHCHP

“To provide or assure access to the highest quality health care for all homeless men, women and children in the greater Boston area.”

When the program began offering clinical services in 1985 with a staff of seven, these things stand out in terms of its mission:

“The coalition insisted that health care be embraced as a matter of social justice rather than charity, and they defined the program’s mission to ensure that the highest-quality health care would be available to all homeless men, women, and children in Boston.” (O’Connell, et al)

It also viewed  itself as a viable professional career for health professionals rather than as a volunteer opportunity and hoped to ensure thereby continuity of top-tier, accessible health care for homeless men, women and children.  This seems a radically positive, innovative notion, and would seem to insure that, by having physicians and other health care providers as salaried employees of BHCHP, not only would availability of health care be assured, but vital relationships of trust could be built between provider and patient, leading to ‘continuity of care.’

 

What is meant by ‘continuity of care’?

1.  Continuity of care from street and shelter to hospital requires an enduring and trusting relationship between the doctor or clinician and patient.

2.  Multidisciplinary teams should deliver care.

3.  BHCHP should act as a catalyst within the mainstream health care system to ensure that the special needs of homeless persons are addressed.

4.  BHCHP should serve as the “glue” linking hospitals and health centers with the community of shelters and homeless service providers.

5.  BHCHP should strive to bridge medicine and public health.

6.  BHCHP should create and implement ‘respite care.’  [now existing as Barbara McInnis House]  (O’Connell, et al)

It is also significant that BHCHP is located near two teaching hospitals, Massachusetts General and Boston Medical Center.  BHCHP has walk-in clinics on the campuses of both facilities.  Colleges and universities are now educating healthcare providers in increased sensitivity to the particular needs of various ethnic and social groups.  This is especially important as the homeless population is one which requires special care in building trust and relationships, both because of possible health issues such as mental illness or addiction, and because attitudes toward homeless people in society as a whole tend at times to be negative, and opportunities for rejection abound.

 

Who Deserves Compassionate Care?

One only has to read the comments section of newspaper articles on homelessness — where homeless people are frequently referred to as ‘bums’ or in other derogatory language — to understand the negativity which can be directed at people living on the street.  This attitude in the public at large may be a more powerful determinant of the quality and scope of the health care offered to the homeless population than one thinks.  For example, some nonprofit organizations seeking to provide health care to those living in poverty may be hesitant to include homeless individuals within their scope — even when they believe they are deserving and needful of help — because they may feel that the ‘homeless’ label will impede funding efforts.

 

So, at the heart of the mission of any program offering health care to those living in poverty must be the consideration of this question:  Are people experiencing homelessness deserving of compassionate care?  Whether or not to include homeless healthcare in programs may in part be a matter of conscience, where non profit leaders either bend to public pressure and opinion, or stand firm in the moral commitment to treat all human beings as equally deserving of inclusion in a community of care.

 

The decision at the outset by the founders of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program to emphatically declare that individuals who are homeless are entitled to and would be provided with top tier, continuous and compassionate health care, provided in an integrated model by on-staff medical and clinical professionals, and with the assumption of the inherent worthiness of each patient to receive such care, regardless of circumstance, represents a rare commitment, but one that seems to have been met there in an extraordinarily successful manner.

 

Toward the end of our tour of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, my family and I were fortunate to have a chance meeting with Dr. James O’Connell, a founding physician of the program and currently its president.  When we told him how moved we were by the beauty of the facility and the range and depth of its proffered services, he said, “Remember, it hasn’t always been like this!  It took us a while to get here.”

 

The success of the program says a great deal about an inspired vision; about the wisdom of its founders and their careful planning; about a limitless amount of dedicated work and commitment; and also, not to be underestimated, about the political and moral will of a public which supports and undergirds the idea that those who at this moment live in society’s shadows are nonetheless deserving of its best.

 

BHCHP Overview

~~ BHCHP has operated in the black for all of its 26 years and has brought medicine that matters to tens of thousands of homeless men, women and children.

~~ BHCHP employs close to 300 doctors, dentists, physician assistants, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health case workers, chefs, building and maintenance staff, substance abuse counselors, case managers and dental assistants.

~~ BHCHP delivers health care to over 11,000 patients each year.

~~ BHCHP manages the medical care throughout greater Boston’s adult and family shelter system, in two hospital based clinics and at over 80 sites throughout greater Boston.

~~ Over its 26 year history BHCHP has developed a care model that makes it a leader in urban medicine throughout the world…compassionate, professional care from a full-time staff…immeasurable savings in both dignity and dollars.

Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program: www.BHCHP.org

 

Special thanks to Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, in particular Tom McCormack andVicki Ritterband for editing, and Carrie Eldridge-Dickson;  and to Nancy Johnson, Master’s of Science Candidate with a focus on Community Health, for access to journal articles and for thoughtful discussions of and insights into public health policy.


 

This article appears in the October, 2011 issue of Street Zine, which is available from licensed street vendors across Dallas.

 

Urgent Need in the Horn of Africa July 24, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

 

 

Urgent Need in the Horn of Africa, Where Children are Dying of Hunger

I often focus on local homelessness and hunger on this blog, but the tragedy unfolding in Southern Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia is so gut-wrenching that I’m moved to pass along this information.  Night after night I listen to the BBC World Service, and, along with many of you I’m sure, weep at pictures on the nightly news of children dying in refugee camps — having arrived just a little too late to be saved from the ravages of malnutrition.

Mothers are walking for weeks to the camps, carrying their children, in order to try to survive. Many people are dying along the way.  It’s a truly desperate situation.

While it’s a fact that Somali rebels have stolen aid from agencies in the past, making some people hesitant to give, journalists are telling us that the rebels are yielding to local pressure and are letting aid through at this time.

Even a small amount helps:  for example, texting $10 to UNICEF (864233) will feed a child for 10 days.  Here is a link to organizations that are already on the ground there and need more help:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43841708/ns/nightly_news/

KS

 

 

 

Mayoral Forum Held at The Stewpot April 16, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2010


Mayoral Forum Held at The Stewpot This Week


The Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church, Dallas, held a mayoral forum Thursday, April 14, 2011 to give Dallas Mayoral candidates an opportunity to address questions regarding the concerns and well-being of Dallas homeless citizens.  Present at the event were vendors of the homeless newspaper Street Zine (published by The Stewpot), Stewpot and Crossroads Community Services staff, Bridge Homeless Assistance Center staff and homeless advocates.  The forum was organized by Street Zine Editor, Pat Spradley and other Stewpot staffers, and the candidates were invited to the event by homeless advocate Clare Nilson.

Panelists were former Dallas Police Chief, David Kunkle, and former Homeless Czar, Mike Rawlings. Candidates Ron Natinsky and Edward Okpa were invited but unable to attend.

The questions ranged from their support of sales of the homeless newspaper published by The Stewpot, Street Zine and the needs of homeless citizens generally, to questions about the Bridge Homeless Assistance Center, and specifics regarding the candidates’ opinions of so-called Quality of Life ordinances, passed by Dallas and other cities to limit the presence and movements of homeless citizens in public places.  Those attending learned about the opinions of the men regarding homelessness and a little of their personalities as well.

Everyone involved in the event is appreciative that the two candidates took time to attend and offer their perspectives on the important issues facing those experiencing homelessness in our city.  Much gratitude as well goes to Ms. Spradley, Ms. Nilson and the Rev. Dr. Bruce Buchanan, Executive Director of The Stewpot, as well as Stewpot staff, for hosting this event.

KS

Check the Street Zine Facebook page next week for an update on this important and informational event and see some pictures as well at :

www.facebook.com/pages/Street-Zine/157413954313713?sk=wall

 

Empty Streets December 14, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Empty Streets


Last night I realized that this is the first year in many that I haven’t given away my winter coat, hat and gloves to someone living on the street.  However, lest this admission be seen as my attempt to cast myself as St. Karen for past impulsive generosity — the same sort of thing I’ve often seen other advocates do — I’ll quickly add that this year’s new self-care feels good.  I ordered a good wool coat from a catalog in early fall and am wearing it right now — indoors, sitting in a cafe.  And I fully intend to keep it with me until spring.

However, if I were inclined to drive around in downtown Dallas, as I’ve done for the past seven winters, and look for people who are out on the street and in need of warm clothing in order to give them something to wear or a blanket, I’d be hard put to find them.  The streets of our fair city are pristine these days late at night — free from those in need or want and, for that matter, of everyone else.

Last week I attended a lecture near downtown that ended around 10 P.M., so I drove through the central business district afterward — past The Stewpot, past The Bridge, past Austin Street Shelter.  It was cold, but not bitter, so there was no one waiting on the sidewalk outside The Bridge for ‘overflow’ to go into effect due to cold weather policy, and I saw only two people, walking quickly, on the streets.  At Austin Street last winter in my ’rounds’, I always found between five and twenty people sleeping either on the sidewalk or in the parking lots adjacent to the shelter.  But this year all of those areas are fenced in, and there was nary a backpack, sleeping bag or plastic-grocery-sack suitcase to be found.

I’d like to think this is a result of the unstinting efforts of homeless service providers and advocates to solve the problem of homelessness in Dallas — that we are a glistening city, a beacon on a hill, because there are no longer any homeless people in the downtown area.  But, as the newly-strengthened panhandling ordinances passed by the Dallas City Council show us, we are still, in Dallas, extremely concerned about the appearance of things, and I think the empty streets are much more likely to be a result of policing.  Our unhoused brothers and sisters are still with us.  They just don’t dare show themselves on the streets of downtown at night.

I’ve written about this in the past, so I won’t repeat my thoughts here.

http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2010/feb/22/dallas-homeless-sweeps-are-counterproductive/

http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2010/jul/13/dallas-be-great-city-must-we-all-look-alike/

But, like many others, I’m concerned that the creation of new ‘solicitation-free zones’ in the expanded ordinance has at its heart a deeper purpose than the desire to protect the middle class and the tourist who are visiting downtown from aggressive and ‘vewy scawey’ panhandling homeless people, and I worry about its application in practice.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/tv/stories/DN-panhandle_11met.ART.State.Edition1.27fee36.html

Here’s a quote from the Dallas Morning News article above:

“Bradley Kizzia, an attorney for Groden, said he is concerned the ordinance is written so broadly that the city could use it to crack down anytime on people like his client.

Groden was arrested in June for selling conspiracy theory merchandise in Dealey Plaza without authorization. He has sued the city, arguing his free speech rights were infringed.

“Nowhere in the [amended ordinance] does it even mention begging or panhandling. Rather, the ordinance is specifically aimed at ‘solicitation,’ which is broadly defined. I’m suspicious of the city’s intent and how the Dallas Police Department will be asked to apply the ordinance,” Kizzia wrote in a recent e-mail.

Kizzia said the ordinance appears to be tied to the Super Bowl and could be used to round up any number of people the city doesn’t want on the streets.

“The language of the ordinance’s prohibition on ‘solicitation’ is not aimed only at aggressive, coercive, or threatening conduct. Watch it be used against the likes of street musicians in the West End (who leave open their instrument cases for tips) and street preachers who accept donations,” he wrote.

First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers said the ordinance is targeted to panhandlers who work the streets for handouts.”

How will such a broadly written ordinance be interpreted by city officials, and how will it play out to those trying to survive on the streets?  It remains to be seen.

I can’t help feeling, as I reflect on the last seven years during which homelessness in Dallas has been an issue to which I’ve paid attention:  we just don’t get it in Dallas, and we never will.

KS

 

The Wilkinson Center: ‘Blessed’ November 26, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

 

Here’s a beautiful letter and appeal from Brian Burton, Executive Director of The Wilkinson Center.  It speaks for itself.

 

Blessed

 

Brave people walk through our doors every day. Listen for five minutes to the wide ranging narrative of stories shared by the newly poor, working poor and homeless people, and you will agree.

One of my first awakenings here was walking through the hallways and asking people waiting for food, “How are you today?” Their consistent response surprised me. Despite a life lacking in possessions, safety, security, employment, health or even shelter, I heard them reply to my question over and over, “I’m blessed.”

Often the statement rolls off the tongues of bodies crippled by years of neglect and abuse. Some manage to smile or raise their hand above their head, as though they have discovered a place of solace and hope.

No matter how bad things get for the “I’m blessed” crowd, their attitude transcends circumstances and plucks hope out of thin air. “Tomorrow will be better, things will work out,” they explain to my disbelieving face.

The State of Texas is about to balance much of its galactic deficit on their backs, and yet these “I’m blessed” neighbors will, as they always do, forgive and love the rest of us. Mitigated by faith and our best attempts to “serve” them, they will make their own way with God, step by step, day by day, facing hardship and struggles inconceivable to me.

Indeed, they have discovered a place of solace and hope. It is a place accessible only when all else has been stripped away: a deep overflowing reservoir of faith in God and an implacable belief in a better tomorrow.

This Thanksgiving, given the anxiety that hangs thick in the air we breathe, it behooves us all to tap into that place of faith these neighbors have found so abundantly. In return for guiding us there, the least we could do is to thank them by sharing the resources we have that will make their hopes for a better tomorrow come true.

Thanks for giving,


Brian Burton

 

http://mywilkinsoncenter.org/


 

Our Calling to Host Thanksgiving Dinner November 17, 2010

Can’t see this email? View it in a browser
You are invited to attend …

Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless

 

We are serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, distributing coats & blankets, and joining in worship to celebrate the Savior on Thanksgiving day 11/25 from 1-4pm. The dinner will be at the Temple of Prayer Christian Fellowship which is located one block behind city hall at 1508 Cadiz. We will need help from volunteers to decorate the church banquet hall (on 11/24) and setup before the event opens (8am-12) on 11/25.

At this event, “Table Hosts” will bring their best place-settings and host a family meal with homeless friends. They are our honored guests and we will serve them in style.

We need your help!

  • Donate money for the food and other expenses.
  • Donate blankets and coats to distribute that day
  • Volunteer your time : We will need lost of hands to serve, distribute resources, pray with and share the love of Christ to our homeless friends.

We need your help. Please RSVP by clicking the “ATTEND” button below. If you have questions, please send us a message or call 214-444-8796 (extension 2)  to tell us how you can help!

Date

Thursday, November 25, 2010 from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Location

Temple of Prayer Christian Fellowship

1508 Cadiz

Dallas, TX 75201


Will you be attending?Attend Event

 

 

The Stewpot Art Sale Is This Saturday! September 20, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010


The Stewpot ‘In House’ Art Sale Is This Saturday!


You are invited to attend The Stewpot “In House” September Art Sale on Saturday, September 25th, 3 pm – 8 pm in the 2nd Floor Gallery at The Stewpot.

This is a unique opportunity to view and purchase our homeless and at-risk friends artistic creations including acrylic paintings, water colors, oil pastels, mixed media works, jewelry, ceramics and more.

Most of the work will be on sale, with a portion of the work priced between 50% and 90% off!

90% of each sale goes to the artist with 10% going to buy more art supplies.

The “In House” September Art Sale will be at The Stewpot, 1822 Young Street, Dallas, TX 75201, across the street from 1st Presbyterian Church Dallas. Free parking provided.

Questions about the Sale or the Art Program? Please contact Stewpot Art Program Director Cynthia Brannum, cynthiab@thestewpot.org, 214-746-2785, ext. 235.

Jean Jones
Director of Volunteer Services
The Stewpot & Second Chance Cafe
– a community ministries program of 1st Presbyterians Church Dallas
214-746-2785, ext. 320
jean.jones@thestewpot.org
http://www.thestewpot.org

 

Recipe: Your Tax Dollars at Work August 17, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Recipe:  Your Tax Dollars at Work



Take: one group of faithful Christians from the Korean Church on a recent Sunday

Add: homeless individuals on the streets of downtown Dallas who are hungry and thirsty

Stir gently.

Toss in: food, conversation, loving concern

Let steep at approximately 105 degrees for 15 or 20 minutes.

Add some chilled bottled water.

Stir again.

Let spirits rise.

Bake at somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 degrees heat index.  It is best to cook this in the late afternoon on hot asphalt or concrete.

Just as the recipe is put into the oven, add 9 police cruisers, a paddy wagon and an ambulance.  (Ambulance may be required in case the police cruisers, paddy wagon, homeless citizens and church members don’t combine properly.)

Arrest first two ingredients — homeless people and church members — before they combine completely and something good happens.

Take all to jail and run their names to check for warrants. Be especially careful of the church members, as they can be an explosive, dangerous ingredient, doing good deeds where they may be unwarranted.

Release those ingredients which don’t have warrants.  Put the remaining ingredients in containers.  (Beware:  containers may already be overfilled.)

Yield: your tax dollars at work during an historic budget crisis in Dallas in which about 440 city employees will be laid off.  Though no one in the fire or police departments will be laid off, they will likely be required to take five furlough days by the fiscal year’s end.

http://cbs11tv.com/local/proposed.dallas.budget.2.1851343.html

KS

 

To Be a Great City, Must We All Look Alike? July 7, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010


To Be A Great City, Must We All Look Alike?

Recently I received an e-mail from a Dallas church leader whom I greatly respect, and it contained this statement regarding people who are homeless in Dallas: “We don’t want them on our streets.  We don’t want them in our neighborhoods.  We can’t have it both ways.”

The debate on how and where homeless citizens will be housed has long been debated nationally, and the fight of neighborhoods to exclude homeless housing even has its own acronym:  NIMBY — Not In My Backyard.  This conversation in Dallas has recently become more open and heated because of a dispute between the agencies representing homeless citizens — in particular, the Dallas Housing Authority and The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center — and homeowner / business associations in North Oak Cliff, over the city’s plan to house up to one hundred homeless individuals in Cliff Manor.  WhiIe painful, the discussion is also desirable, because it is leading to a higher-profile airing of the many sides of the Permanent Supportive Housing issue.

For me, it brings to mind a question that is not always asked:  why do we object so vehemently to seeing poor people on our streets and in our neighborhoods, and is this objection reasonable?  Is having our streets free of ‘the poor’ a desirable goal?

I am reminded of several visits I made to Paris, France, several years ago when one of my daughters studied and worked there.  I found it to be the most exhilarating and beautiful place I’d ever been — architecturally stunning, and fascinating in its diversity.  The thrilling, dizzying mix of all sorts of people — on the streets, in the crowded cafes, rushing into the Metro; reading, sitting, lying on the grass; running, walking, cycling; old men and kids bowling in the parks — these things make it a vigorous, animated city, and I fell for it the first time I was driven through its environs by my future son-in-law.

I especially liked walking in the evening to the Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower.  There I saw families picnicking, dogs chasing Frisbees, and people of every description playing games or music — even juggling fire!  Those gathered at day’s end in the large open grassy space are poor and rich, dressed up and dressed simply.

When I compare life in Paris with my experiences working with homeless people in Dallas for the last six and a half years, one particular difference leaps to mind.  Cities across America, including Dallas, continue to develop and implement strategies to get people who are homeless out of sight.  These include passing special laws that target homeless individuals — ‘sleeping in public,’ ‘criminal trespass,’ ‘blocking the sidewalk,’ — so-called ‘Quality of Life’ ordinances for which a person in business clothing would not be ticketed but which allow police to pinpoint those who ‘look homeless’ and try to hustle them from view.

We all know how the Quality-of-Life-Ordinance story concludes:  tickets that cannot be paid by homeless individuals, warrants for their arrest, jail terms which make their complicated life situation even more challenging, the filling of jails with people who are in fact generally not a social threat.  This much-written-about practice of shifting the homeless from emergency services to prison to back on the street is not only the costliest way of doing business, it’s utterly inhumane, because so many of the homeless are mentally ill and do not belong in jail.  So the people authorities want to get rid of haven’t gone anywhere, only now they have more obstacles to overcome in order to get their lives together.  It makes no sense at all.

While we strive here to keep our homeless citizens out of public view by enforcing these laws, in Paris no one was being ticketed for lying on the grass of the park or sitting on its benches, because everybody does these things — talking, laughing, singing, sleeping.  Yet, somehow that city has a spectacular ‘quality of life’ because its public life is vibrant and diverse.

I have come to realize that by trying to control the access of our least fortunate citizens to places and aspects of our common city life, we are attempting to create an environment that is homogeneous and sterile rather than one that is vital and alive.  Could this be a reason why revitalization in downtown Dallas continues to lag?  Is it really interesting to interact with and observe only people who are polished and look as though they just breezed in from ritzy a suburban mall?

The homeless are with us.  When we don’t see them, it is only because they have been forced into hiding.  We are creating a deceptive level of comfort for ourselves by forcing from view people who make us uncomfortable in their poverty.

The desire for homogeneity in communities used to manifest itself primarily in terms of skin color: Jim Crow laws, segregation.  While racism is still a significant problem in our country, now it seems that we at least pay lip service to the desirability of racial diversity, and civil rights laws are in place to enforce equal rights and give access to the judicial system when they are violated.  Whether you believe that racism has gone underground or has actually decreased, it’s still apparently acceptable to shun people because of their economic situation, especially when it comes to individuals who ‘look homeless.’  What is wrong with having people on the streets of our cities who may be dressed in clothing and groomed in a manner that is not ‘up to’ our middle class standards?  It seems to me that successful cities are not merely hothouses designed only for the rich and well-heeled.  A great city is a place where all kinds of people can live, as well as simply ‘be’ — not only people who look or dress a certain way.

Perhaps it would be a good thing if the current discussion, which began by a debate over the location of Permanent Supportive Housing for people experiencing homelessness, precipitated an identity crisis for us as a city and led us to look at ourselves both deeply and objectively.  Is it possible for us to step back and re-invision the Dallas of tomorrow from a different perspective?  Does our vision for ourselves really need to include having our streets free of everyone who doesn’t ‘look like us’?

Recently at Dallas City Council, two homeless women in attendance at the public meeting were asked by an advocate to stand.  Outraged, a city leader said he felt ‘ambushed.’  One puzzles as to what could possibly motivate such a statement.  Perhaps seeing people who are poor being called attention to in a meeting (a meeting that is in fact open to everyone) is offensive to some because it puts a human face on homelessness.  When we see and come to know people who are ‘poor’ as fellow human beings, it’s no longer quite as easy to marginalize them.  Once we see their humanity and recognize it as identical to our own, we may realize: it’s not ‘us and them’.  These could be our neighbors and our friends.

What is the cost to us as a city when we pursue policies that exclude a certain group of people from public life?  Besides the vibrancy which comes from diversity, at risk is also the greater good of the city — its moral fiber, its wholeness, its ability to address and solve hard problems such as homelessness.

I’ll bring up a point that I’ve not heard mentioned as we’re swept along in the tide of this essential and critically important battle to provide housing for 700 to 1000 long-term, street-dwelling homeless people in Dallas:  there will be a few people — a few — who will not want to go into housing, even though the vast majority want very much to be housed.  Therein lies a hidden danger in having as our goal city streets that are pristine in the sense of being homeless-and-beggar-free. It is important that our success in housing people does not become a further excuse to persecute those who are unable or unwilling to be housed.  It is not a ‘blight’ to see people on the streets of our town who ‘look homeless’ — ie, poor — but it is truly tragic when people desperately want housing and are unable get it.

We have to be wary of having as our goal a city which is visibly free of ‘poor’ people if the impetus for that goal is the desire within ourselves to live insulated lives, free of the necessity to view the suffering of others.

As the Dallas public becomes increasingly educated through informed public dialogue about the benefits of Permanent Supportive Housing, perhaps holding in our hearts an honor for our differences can help us understand that those who have had a very different life path from our own can still be excellent neighbors.

It is not easy or simple to walk the path of reaching out to those who are down on their luck by including rather than excluding them from public life, because when we do this, we share in their pain, and we may become temporarily uncomfortable.  But the upside is that our lives will be richer and more meaningful by far when we embrace our differences and realize that we are all — rich, poor, and in between — much greater and finer than we ever dreamed when we are able to work and live together.

KS

This article appears in the July, 2010 edition of Street Zinehttp://www.thestewpot.org/

and on Pegasus News.comhttp://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2010/jul/13/dallas-be-great-city-must-we-all-look-alike/?refscroll=13

 

Our Calling June 11, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010


Wayne Walker and ‘Our Calling’


I first met Wayne Walker a number of years ago on the parking lot of the then-city-shelter, The Day Resource Center.  It was a Friday night, and, as they did every Friday night, he and his group of fellow church members were serving a delicious hot dinner to around three hundred of Dallas homeless citizens.  They’d allowed me to join them to give away some gently used clothing I’d collected.

After dinner and the clothing giveaway, we all joined hands for a prayer circle, as people took turns praying aloud — for help with housing, with mental illness or addiction challenges, with family problems, or intercessory prayer for loved ones not present.  Everyone seemed to feel free to pour out their hearts with unfettered honesty, because it was clear that here — among this group that went by the name ‘Our Calling’ — people who were accustomed to being judged harshly in society were accepted and loved for exactly who they were.

It surprised me, because Wayne and his group were prosperous-looking, middle-class folks, many from North Dallas, and I wasn’t accustomed to seeing this kind of unconditional love for my street friends from folks who were ‘housed.’  In the coming months, I too would pour out my heart in prayer in front of this extremely diverse group, would (to my embarrassment) begin to cry in front of them over some private heartache, and would find myself lifted up in love by many hands on my shoulders — some weathered from living outdoors and some smooth.

It didn’t take long to realize:  here was Christian Love-In-Action — the way it’s ‘spozed to be’ [to borrow from the title of a book I like a lot.]  All my [unjust] stereotypes of North Dallas churches were swept away.  These people weren’t doing what they did for ‘flash’:  during and after dinner, I’d see them sitting quietly at picnic tables on the parking lot talking caringly to people who were struggling with homelessness, treating them with an equality, lack of condescension and sense of friendship that is rare.

During these years of Friday nights on the Day Resource Center parking lot, we invited then-mayoral-candidate Tom Leppert to come and serve dinner with us, which he graciously did.  I watched as Wayne took Mr. Leppert aside and asked him the ‘hard questions’ about homelessness and how he intended to help.  I was impressed by Wayne’s candor.

Wayne — a happily-married father of four and a trained theologian — was at that time employed to head up the media department of Dallas Theological Seminary.  As I got to know him better over weeks and years, I continued to learn more of (and be moved by) his knowledge and understanding of ‘street culture,’ the very personal relationships he had developed with people living on the streets,  and his unbending compassion and advocacy for the struggles and challenges in their lives.

For as long as I’ve known him, Wayne has expressed a deep longing to help and serve full-time among the ‘poorest of the poor’ living on the streets.  It is such a joy to see him doing that now and getting the recognition he deserves.

KS

Here’s a recent clip about him and his ministry from Channel 8:

http://www.wfaa.com/video/featured-videos/Our-Neighbor-Helping-the-homeless-95497244.html?utm_source=OurCalling+Newsletter&utm_campaign=c83a828ef8-06_03_10&utm_medium=email

http://www.ourcalling.org/

http://dallashomelessnetwork.blogspot.com/2010/06/called-to-help-homeless.html

 

What Makes a City Great? May 28, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

What Makes a City Great?


~~ a description of street life in 1788 Paris, France ~~

“Summer arrived, and in Paris the life of the boulevards went on as pleasantly as ever.  Pleasure seekers gathered in the warm evenings to stroll along the broad walks under the huge trees, the roads were filled with carriages, the tables crowded at the outdoor cafes and gardens, where musicians played and people paused to rest and refresh themselves.  A visitor from England admired the ‘cheerfulness and whimsical variety of the spectacle, the confusion of riches and poverty, hotels and hovels, pure air and stinks, people of all sorts and conditions, from the Prince of the blood to the porter.’  Ordinary Parisians put on their best silk breeches and ruffled shirts and came in groups to stroll or dine, dandies paraded on horseback, fashionably dressed women sat at the little tables surrounded by their admirers.  Footmen, enjoying an evening’s liberty, sat and drank beer, old soldiers lounged and smoked, and talked of long-ago campaigns, shopwomen in their chintz gowns flirted with hairdresser’s assistants who courted them, hat in hand.”

“The buildings are very good,” the English traveler went on, “the walks delightful…”  There were amusements in abundance, from plays and acrobats… magicians and rope-dancers… There were puppet shows and concerts… and dancing dogs.  And there were many things to buy, cakes and fruit and flowers, prints and fans and lapdogs.  Peddlers ran along the roads… jumping up on the steps of the fine painted carriages to offer their wares to the elegant ladies and gentlemen inside….  There was much political talk, and the street orators held forth on the evils of the tax burden… but for the most part the worries of the day were forgotten.”

~~ To the Scaffold, The Life of Marie Antoinette, by Carolly Erickson, p. 198


The description of 1788 Paris above reminds me very much of Paris today in terms of its lively culture, and of why I love it.  It’s exhilarating and beautiful — architecturally stunning, but fascinating in its diversity as well.  The thrilling, dizzying mix of all sorts of people — on the streets, in the crowded cafes, rushing into the Metro, old men and kids bowling in the parks, people reading, walking, cycling — make it a vigorous, animated city, and I fell for it the first time I was driven through it’s environs by my future son-in-law about a decade ago.

When I’ve been fortunate enough to go there, I like most to walk in the evening to the Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower, in order to watch the activities there:  families picnicking, dogs chasing Frisbees, people of every description playing games or music, or even juggling fire!  It is LIFE — vibrant, diverse, thrilling.  The people gathered at day’s end out in the large open space are poor, rich, dressed down, dressed up.  And — imagine this — no one is arresting homeless folks for lying on the grass of the park because everybody lies or sits on the grass — talking, laughing, singing, sleeping.  No ‘Quality of Life’ ordinances being enforced, yet, somehow — voila! — a spectacular quality of life!

One night at 1 A.M., the police blocked off the city streets to make way for over a thousand roller bladers who whizzed past the Eiffel Tower as those of us on the sidewalk whooped and yelled and clapped, cheering them on.  It was a night I’ll remember always.

http://www.tour-eiffel.fr/teiffel/uk/

Begging (panhandling in our terms) is a way of life for some in Paris, and even a profession for a few.  I remember my first ride on the Metro (subway).  To my surprise, a father and son came through the train car asking for money.  They were polite, low-key, almost matter-of-fact about begging.  Many people ignored them, some people contributed, they moved on, and that was it.  Not everyone likes begging, not everyone gives, but one can ignore it if one chooses.

What makes a city great?

These are the sorts of things which make a city fantastic and which draw people to it from around the world.  Successful downtowns are not hothouses designed only for the rich and well-heeled.  A great city is a place where all kinds of people can live, as well as just ‘be’, in open, green spaces — not just people who look or dress a certain way — EVERYONE.

The question of what makes a great city is a topic of heated debate in Dallas right now, particularly in terms of the question of where within the city to place affordable and permanent supportive housing.  Generally, in downtown and in outlying neighborhoods, the attitude towards permanent supportive housing and formerly homeless individuals who might be housed there can be tagged by the acronym NIMBY (not in my backyard.)

Cities across American continue to develop and implement strategies to ‘get the homeless out of sight’, both on a daily basis and in particular for special tourist events like The Olympic Games [see a recent article on Vancouver in The Street Zine, May, 2010.] These include passing ‘special’ laws that target them — ‘sleeping in public,’ ‘criminal trespass,’ ‘blocking the sidewalk,’ as mentioned above — so-called ‘Quality of Life’ ordinances for which a person in business clothing would not be ticketed but which allow police to pinpoint those who ‘look homeless’ and try to hustle them from view.

We all know how the story concludes:  tickets that cannot be paid by the homeless individual, warrants for their arrest, jail terms which make their complicated life situation even more challenging, the filling of jails with people who are in fact generally not a social threat.  This much-written-about practice of shifting the homeless from emergency services to prison to back on the street is not only the costliest way of doing business, it’s utterly inhumane, because so many of the homeless are mentally ill and do not belong in jail.  So the people authorities want to get rid of haven’t gone anywhere, only now they have more obstacles to overcome in order to get their lives together.  It makes no sense at all.

Rethinking: Let’s Have A Productive ‘Identity Crisis’ in Dallas!

It would be wonderful if this discussion precipitated an identity crisis for us as a city and led us to look at ourselves both deeply and objectively [but I’m trying not to get my hopes up.] What if we took several steps back and reinvisioned the Dallas of tomorrow with new eyes?  Does our vision really need to include having our streets free of everyone who doesn’t ‘look like us?’

The desire for homogeneity in communities used to manifest itself primarily in terms of skin color: Jim Crow laws, segregation.  While racism is still a significant problem in our country, now it seems that we at least pay lip service to the desirability of racial diversity, and civil rights laws are in place to enforce equal rights and give access to the judicial system when they are violated.  Whether you believe that racism has gone underground or has actually decreased to some extent (I think it’s both), it’s still apparently acceptable to shun people in terms of their economic situation, especially when it comes to individuals who ‘look homeless.’  What is wrong with having people on the streets of our cities who may be dressed in clothing and groomed in a manner that is not ‘up to’ our middle class standards?

Take a look at the debate over where the EVERgreen Residences, a beautifully-designed permanent supportive housing project put forward by First Presbyterian Church Dallas and The Stewpot, will/ will not be built and the at-times rabid opposition by the Expo Park / Deep Ellum business owners and residents.  When providing people access to safe, clean, well-designed permanent supportive housing is supposed give way to the ‘artistic ecosystem’ that is said by residents to be developing in an area where bars and entertainment are a large part of the social scene, maybe it’s time to seriously reconsider our priorities and the power that affluent neighborhood associations have to scuttle much-needed projects in Dallas.

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2010/04/what.php

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2010/04/strong_expo_park_showing_oppos.php

http://forum.dallasmetropolis.com/showthread.php?p=370143

Small groups with large opinions should be a part of policy making, but they should not be allowed to dominate it. When they do, nobody wins — except the influential neighborhood groups in the short run, and perhaps the particular council person in the area in the next election.  What is lost is the greater good of the city, its moral fiber, its wholeness, its ability to address and solve hard problems such as homelessness. So far in Dallas, in terms of housing, we have valiant efforts being undercut for the most part by powerful, affluent localized forces — a stalemate.

Where is bold, morally courageous, visionary leadership at the city government level?  If it’s going to show up, this would be a good time.  We have a lot of homeless and working people to house.  And housing is the only way we’re ever really going to get them off the street.

KS

A recommended read by Jim Schutze in The Dallas Observer: “City Hall’s Desire For A Fancy Downtown (Without Too Many Poor People) Costs Developers $30 Million”

http://www.dallasobserver.com/2010-05-06/news/city-hall-s-desire-for-a-fancy-downtown-without-too-many-poor-people-costs-developers-30-million/

This from the comments:  * JimS 05/08/2010 9:53:44 AM • There is an important element in this story which I neglected to get into my column or the subsequent blog item. The decision by Lockey and Mackenzie to obey the HUD rules and provide the amount of affordable housing called for in HUD’s national guideline was in good part a market decision. They told me they looked at what had been built already downtown and saw way more high-end capacity than the market wanted to absorb. They were well aware of the weaknesses in several of the completed projects and could see, for example, that Prudential would foreclose on the Mosaic, as in fact it did this week. They said to me, Why provide more chocolate cake when the market already has more chocolate cake than it can eat? So they saw a project that was more than half affordable as a good market play  – something that would rent up quickly instead of going belly up. I get the impression both of them also are people who think working people and young people are good for downtowns. And think about it. If you went to the quarter in New Orleans and all of a sudden it looked like Snyder Plaza in Highland Park, would you go back? Downtown Dallas is frozen and sterile because the people running it are afraid of anybody who isn’t rich. It would help if they were white, too. But that’s a suburb. Actually even our suburbs are more diverse than what has been created downtown. What we really see is an attempt at a replication of the Park Cities, where most of the decision-makers probably live. It’s their idea of cool. But they’re not cool. And they’re also not moving into it. To work for them, downtown Dallas would have to be Carmel. Which would suck. Anyway, I see a lot of comment here about listening to market forces. I think MacKenzie and Lockey would agree. They listened. The market forces said, More affordable. And City hall said, You’re toast.

 

It’s a Good Question, Isn’t It? May 14, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

It’s a Good Question, Isn’t It?

I first heard this song on a CD given to me by my friend, Sandy, and it’s one of my CD’s now:  Give Us Your Poor: 17 New Recordings To Help End Homelessness (Appleseed Recordings). Have you ever asked yourself this question?  We need to keep asking it. KS

Here and Now

by Mark Erelli

Cobblestone pillow
Newspaper sheets
Ten below zero
Sleeping on the street

Someday we all will have a home
A place to come in from the cold
Somewhere so high above the clouds
Why not here
Why not now

Pastures of plenty
For the tired and poor
Still too many hands empty
Behind the golden door

Someday we all will have a home
A place to come in from the cold
Somewhere so high above the clouds
Why not here
Why not now

Someday we all will live the dream
There’ll be no cracks to fall between
Somewhere where everyone will have enough
But here and now
It’s up to us

Someday we all will be at peace
And all of our suffering will cease
There’s more than enough to go around
Why not here
Why not now

Why not here?
Why not now?


 

We Are the World February 17, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We Are the World

Check out this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Glny4jSciVI

 

Cold Weather Policy and Our Homeless Neighbors February 14, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Cold Weather Policy and Our Homeless Neighbors


Driving around downtown in the cold weather in the days preceding the Big Snow in Dallas, I began pondering our city’s Cold Weather Policy for our neighbors who are living on the street.  I had recently learned during the monthly Homeless Advocacy Meeting at The Stewpot that a January, 2010 report by the National Coalition for the Homeless points to 40 degrees F as the temperature recommended for activation of Cold Weather Policy nationwide.

The City of Dallas currently has a policy of 32 degrees — freezing — for such activation:  putting shelters on overflow and opening enough emergency shelters to give everyone a bed.

I was happy to learn this week from Dennis Strickland, Lead Case Worker at The Bridge, that staff there has implemented a policy closer to the NCH recommendation:  37 degrees, or a wind chill of 37 degrees.  They also now allow ‘self-referral’ of guests after 10 PM during cold weather.  There was at least one night during the Big Snow that the gates of The Bridge were not closed for re-entry at 10 P.M., which means there was an open campus. Homeless guests are allowed to sit up in the Welcome Center all night, and, if necessary after referrals and pick up from other shelters, the dining room can be opened for sleeping after getting in extra staff.

These are important and significant improvements over last winter and show an ongoing commitment to accommodate our friends on the street and keep them safe from injury and hypothermia.  The Bridge staff seem to be coping as best they can within the limits of their space availability.

I would love the see the city as a whole move toward adopting all of the recommendations in the NCH report.  The entire report is worth a read.  Here are some highlights that struck me as particularly pertinent.  It is of particular concern that, although ours is far from the most harsh climate in the United States, it is in fact the most dangerous for people living outdoors.

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/winter_weather/index.html

p. 15

the most dangerous cases of hypothermia do not occur when the ambient temperature is far below freezing.  Instead, Dr. O’Connell says, the worst cases they see arise when the days are warm (between 40F and 50F) and the nighttime temperature drops to the mid-30’s.

Temperature cut-offs should be avoided, since the effectiveness of a shelter is decreased when the population it serves does not know, from night to night, whether the shelter will be open.  If a temperature cut-off is necessary, due to financial or other reasons, the cut-off should be at least 40F in order to prevent the most dangerous cases of hypothermia, according to Dr. O’Connell.

p.17

An exemplary winter shelter would be open 24 hours each day between October 1 and April 30, regardless of temperature, as well as any other days during the year when the temperature falls below 40F.  It would also admit all homeless people, regardless of sobriety status or past bans, unless they are violent or causing an extreme disturbance.

It is also important to note that a consistent, across-the-board policy throughout a set number of months and all shelters builds trust between the homeless population and the service providers attempting to help them and indeed to keep them alive.

KS

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/

 

Haitian Relief January 16, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haitian Relief

Readers may already have a preferred way of supporting relief efforts, but if you are concerned about the aid getting in, or about the integrity of the pathway through which it goes, here’s an appeal that can be counted on to do what it says in the way it says.  And it is already established in Haiti and has programs operating there.

Having had personal dealings with Dillon International, our family has found them to be very credible and accountable.  In particular, it’s quite laudable that they operate not only adoption programs in many countries around the world but also humanitarian efforts in these countries — for example, a home for street children who will not be adopted or otherwise cared for in Vietnam.

Also, there is a local connection, as they have recently paired with Buckner Family Services to increase the scope of the operations of both.  Below is an e-mail from Deniese Dillon, a founder.

KS

Dear Friends,

We are so very saddened by the tragedy that has hit Haiti!  We have learned from Gladys Thomas, the Director of Dillon’s Programs in Haiti,  that the Children’s Village and Hope Hospital are okay.  There has been some flooding, one of the walls on a building collapsed, and many people are gathering in this location but otherwise all is well.  The Village (orphanage home) has food but the children are scared.

There will be many people throughout the Haitian community that will continue to come to Hope Hospital looking for care…it is already very full with earthquake victims.

The great need right now is gasoline to run the generators. If you are interested in helping provide aid to the children and people of Haiti please click the link below.  We are able to get the funds directly to Gladys and the funds will be put immediately to use.

https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=22119

Please check the Dillon International website periodically for updates on this situation. http://www.dillonadopt.com/

Thank you for your help,

Deniese Dillon

3227 East 31st Street, Suite 200 I Tulsa, OK  74105

Voice: 918.749.4600 I Fax:  918.749.7144
Email:
tonnie@dillonadopt.com

www.Dillonadopt.com I www.orphancareintl.org I www.Buckner.org
Making Life Better for Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Families

 

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

 

 


 

Living Proof November 21, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Living Proof


As you may know, the stereotype of the adult Trust Baby who lives on the street by choice because he or she doesn’t want to obey society’s rules is, if not a downright myth, then at least a rare exception among those experiencing street-dwelling homelessness, particularly on a long-term basis.  At a Homeless Advocacy Meeting I attended this week at The Stewpot, as I looked around the room, I asked myself, as I often do:  “What is the profile of a person who is homeless?”  My answer, after years of pondering the question, is that there is no profile.  As with the ‘housed,’ each person’s story is unique.  However, I have observed that a history of family poverty and an interruption in the process of formal education seem to be a common themes among many individuals experiencing so-called ‘chronic’ homelessness that I’ve come to know over the past six years.

 

So, when I hear someone offering solutions to problems of poverty, disease and a lack of education on a global scale, and offering them in a clear-headed and practical way, I tend to listen.  That happened last week when I caught an interview with Melinda Gates on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS (KERA.)

 

It was later than I like to be awake, but I couldn’t quit watching and was riveted to the interchange within the first couple of minutes, because I saw in Melinda a passion and conviction which I’ve come to recognize in those who are committed to positive action on a deep level.  A statement she made — “That mother in Africa whose child is dying of malaria cares just as much about her child as I care about mine” — shows me:  she’s been ‘on the ground,’ engaged in frequent and genuine contact with people who are suffering.   For her, it’s no longer ‘us and them.’

 

What struck me first of all was her manner.  When asked a question, one could tell she had so much information to give in reply that she had to hold back some of it in order to respond to the question within the timeframe allotted.  That kind of interest and accumulation — not to mention synthesis — of data, comes only from a deep and impassioned curiosity.

 

A few things stood out from the interview.

~~ She said that the money she and Bill have put into the The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (many billions) was a drop in the bucket towards solving the problems they address.  In particular, she mentioned the goal of the complete eradication of certain diseases from the planet — malaria, polio, smallpox, HIV-AIDS — and the improvement of public education.  It was Warren Buffet’s donation of tens of billions more that allowed the Foundation to ‘go much deeper’, in her words, in addressing these problems.

~~ She could answer the hard questions, but never in a contentious and divisive way.  When asked about the diversion of aid funds by corrupt governments in the developing world, she answered, with practicality but without blame, that she and Bill had learned that the work was best and most successfully carried out in certain countries where they could work well with accountable governments  — in other words, tried and true solutions based on experience.

~~ The solutions to large, global problems lie, not in one segment of society alone, but rather only in partnerships between private philanthropy, government funding and cooperation, and faith-based organizations.  That’s why, when I hear opinions put forth with monolithic solutions — and most often government participation as an evil is mentioned —  I realize that these comments are based in ideology rather than in reality.  The massive problems of hunger, homelessness, poverty, and global disease are indeed only amenable to large-scale partnering.

~~ The Gates Foundation sticks with it.  They’ve been working on public education for a decade and are just now coming up with really workable answers to the question of what can make it succeed.  At first they tried organizing smaller communities within the larger ones so that troubled kids could feel a sense of connection, but what they’ve learned over time is that the really important variable is — guess what?  the particular adult individual teacher within the classroom.  (How does that make you feel about the Dallas Independent School District laying off experienced, gifted teacher during its budget problems?)  So now, they are trying to quantify exactly what are the characteristics of successful teachers, so that those can be taught and mentored to others.  They are doing this through transparency in teaching methods and outcomes in pilot programs a couple of states — so that success can be shared, passed along, and hopefully instituted across the country.

~~ Something I observed in her manner was a presence of deep caring coupled with a lack of sentimentality.  It may sound strange, but, as I’ve learned myself — sometimes the hard way — sentimentality about an issue can sometimes cloud its reality, and I believe its takes away from the dignity of those experiencing the problem.  There is a fine line between these two, shall we call them ‘values?’ — compassion and sentimentality.  But it’s probably an important line to learn to identify, in order to keep ourselves from enabling on the one hand and becoming cynical on the other.

 

Regardless of our situations, we are all human beings made of the same flesh and blood as well as emotional and spiritual components, and we are in this together.  Not only is ‘right action’ a moral imperative, it is the correct practical option to try and solve these problems that plague our world.

 

KS

 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:  All Lives Have Equal Value

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Pages/home.aspx

The Living Proof Project

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/livingproofproject/Pages/video-gallery.aspx#video=/livingproofproject/Pages/kangaroo-mother-care-malawi.aspx&pager=0

 

A Night To Remember: Steve Martin and CDM October 28, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


A Night to Remember:  Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

An Evening of Bluegrass and Banjo Benefitting Central Dallas Ministries


One of my daughters and I attended the above concert at the Meyerson Symphony Center last evening, and we had a great time.  The hall was sold out, and the concert was not only fun, the music was terrific.  Of course, Steve Martin told his share of funny jokes and played a masterful banjo, and the Steep Canyon Rangers are excellent musicians and vocalists.  A fine concert supporting an extremely worthy organization.

 

After the concert, my daughter and I were talking to the fiddle player, and I was telling him that Bluegrass music is close to my heart, since I’m from Tennessee.  “Eastern Tennessee?” he asked.  “Oh, yeh!” I said.  “Our band lives in Asheville,” he told us.  We high-fived.  “You know,” he said, “East Tennessee and Western North Carolina are a separate state unto themselves.”  “Yes,” I said, “no more beautiful place on earth.”  “Absolutely,” he replied, “a well-kept secret.”  A band after my own heart.

KS

 

Some Things Don’t Change: Kim Horner & Thackeray May 11, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

 

Some Things Don’t Change

 

If you haven’t yet read Part 2 in Kim Horner’s series in the Dallas Morning News and seen Courtney Perry’s moving photographs about chronic homelessness in Dallas, you’ve missed something vital to understanding the complicated picture of this challenging problem.  Kim’s latest piece blends heart and head in the way in which she excels.  When I finished reading it, I felt both sad and relieved, because it gives context to what I’ve experienced for years but have not fully understood: the human cost of gaps and inadequate services for our people without homes in Dallas.

 

As mental health support wanes, many doomed to homelessness

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/050309dnmethomeless.40533a2.html

 

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Kim a little bit in the past few months, and I’ve found her to be a kind and trustworthy individual who tells it like it is, ‘gets it’ at many levels, and is able to synthesize complicated information successfully:  facts, analysis, compassion without sensation.  She knows one doesn’t have to engage in hyperbole in reporting on her ‘beat’, because the situation on the streets of Dallas is heartbreaking enough without it.

 

Another person who ‘got it’ — and frequently expressed ‘it’ in scathing terms — was William Makepeace Thackeray, when he was writing the novel Vanity Fair (1847-48).  This literary masterpiece, which has been called by some ‘the greatest novel in English,’ is gaining ground in my affections, alongside Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, as one of my favorite stories of all time.  I first read it in high school and didn’t appreciate it — or understand it — at all. Reading it now, I can only absorb a page or two at a sitting because I find it so dense in meaning and altogether pertinent to modern-day society, and to homelessness in particular.

 

These passages from Vanity Fair speak for themselves:

 

“‘There must be classes — there must be rich and poor,’ Dives says, smacking his claret…  Very true;  but think how mysterious and often unaccountable it is — that lottery of life which gives to this man the purple and fine linen, and sends to the other rags for garments and dogs for comforters….  

The hidden and awful Wisdom which apportions the destinies of mankind is pleased so to humiliate and cast down the tender, good, and wise;  and to set up the selfish, the foolish, or the wicked.  Oh, be humble, my brother, in your prosperity!  Be gentle with those who are less lucky, if not more deserving.  Think, what right have you to be scornful, whose virtue is a deficiency of temptation, whose success may be a chance, whose rank may be an ancestor’s accident, whose prosperity is very likely a satire?”

 

KS

 

 

The Garden: South Dallas, Texas April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009


“The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein;…”  ~~ Psalm 24

The Garden:  South Dallas, Texas

 

Gardeners, Mandy in Front


On the morning of April 2, 2009, I blithely put up a blog post here about gardens (“The Magic of Gardens”.)  I quote myself from that article:  ”The idea [of a community garden] is something that’s beyond my purview to [help] organize … right now,” – and I was convinced of that at the time.  However, by the same afternoon, I had received e-mails from staff members of two of the best nonprofit agencies benefitting people who are homeless in the City of Dallas saying that they were interested in being involved.

 

Janet offered the possible involvement of some volunteers.  Pat informed me that Pastor Karen Dudley, Founder and Senior Pastor of the Dallas International Street Church in South Dallas, had been wanting to start a community garden for years, and, most importantly, that she had access to land where it could be done.                                                                                           [http://www.kdministries.org/]


I realized that perhaps…  a community garden with and for Pastor Karen’s congregation and neighborhood and the street people of Dallas and was an idea whose time may have come.

 

Pastor Karen is a friend and someone I deeply admire (see “Miracle on Second Avenue”), and by the next afternoon, she and I were in the meadow adjacent to her church property, looking at a possible garden site.  A week later, several people met at the Street Church to discuss what was involved in undertaking such a project.  By the end of the meeting, these generous women, including Pastor Karen, had taken out their checkbooks and given us a significant start on a “Seed Money Fund.”  

 

Driving home, I phoned my church, The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, and asked Outreach Director, Martha Lang, whether they might be willing to contribute to our community garden’s Seed Money Fund.  I sent her a proposal that night and received a reply that she thought they could help.  Miracle of miracles, it is two weeks to the day since “The Magic of Gardens” was written, and… The Garden: South Dallas, Texas (so dubbed by Pastor Karen) seems to be coming to life.

 

Generosity of Friends


 

~~  Our Seed Money Fund is up to $550.00, raised from the Garden Committee and Church of the Incarnation.  $300 of this money will go to purchase organic soil from a Dallas company;  the rest will go for concrete blocks to construct the four raised beds for the first phase of The Garden.  (The soil on the land is not tillable.)

~~  We are incredibly blessed to have a work force of homeless individuals coming for a Garden-Raising Day (remember old-time barn raisings?) the first week in May to clean up the land and construct the beds.  This has been arranged by The Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, and the group will work alongside Pastor Karen’s congregation (most of whom have also come from the streets of Dallas).  Our nonprofit friends are also providing work gloves and some tools!

~~  The Garden is being planned to be wheelchair accessible:  one of our Garden Committee members, also an experienced gardener, uses a wheelchair, and she will advise us.  Many individuals experiencing homelessness, whom we hope will come and work with us, use one as well.

~~  We have received invaluable input, research, information, donation of materials and enthusiastic support both from our Garden Committee members and from friends.  All of this is much appreciated.

 

What Do We Need?


 

~~  To increase our Seed Money Fund in order to buy hoses to reach The Garden and soaker hoses for the beds to save water, to put a second level of concrete blocks on a few of our beds to make them higher for those in wheelchairs, to afford to construct additional raised beds beyond the four that our budget allows for now

NO DONATION IS TOO SMALL (unless you want change for a penny!)

~~  Donation of new or used fencing to enclose The Garden in stages to ward off theft or vandalism

~~  Donations of healthy plants or seeds from other gardeners (we’d love to try some heirloom seeds)

~~  Gardening tools of all kinds, garden carts or wheelbarrows for transporting soil and plant materials, or anything else you can think of!

 

Who Is the ‘Community’ in ‘Community Garden’?


‘Who Is the Community’ in the ‘Community Garden’ called The Garden: South Dallas, Texas?  It is Pastor Karen’s church congregation and the friends and neighbors who live around the church (a neighborhood which would benefit greatly from fresh produce, as there are few supermarkets nearby), but also the true and full sense of community for The Garden: South Dallas, Texas, extends beyond geographical borders to include the entire homeless community of Dallas.  One may not typically think of people spread across the city in different geographical locations as such, but a community it is – 

it is a spiritual network of human beings spread across Dallas, the members of which sometimes stay in shelters, sometimes in alleys or behind dumpsters, sometimes under bridges in cardboard homes.


If you wonder whether this is a community, ask a person who is homeless on the streets of downtown whether they know a person who lives under a particular freeway overpass in a cardboard home several miles away. Percentage-wise, I’m guessing they are more likely to know that individual than many of us would be likely to know someone on our own block in the suburbs.

 

Our mission, our vision, our commitment, then, is a little different from that of the typical community garden, and also includes the desire to bring together people from disparate parts of the city with differing backgrounds to help us all come to know each other and to realize:  we are the same — not ‘us and them.’  So come and work with us!


Possibilities for the Future

 

~~  We would like for The Garden to include benches, picnic tables, and walking paths for the enjoyment of  gardeners, congregants, friends, and neighborhood families.  Our dream is that it can become a beautiful and peaceful refuge for the community, with flowers, berries, fruit trees and herbs as well as vegetables.

 

~~  In time, we would love to have a produce stand out front that the gardeners can operate as a small business.  

~~  We hope that a second phase of The Garden can contain raised beds for neighborhood families to rent for a nominal fee and manage on their own, such as is done in the East Dallas Community Garden and others.  Our first four beds will serve the Street Church, the neighborhood, and the homeless community at large across the city.

~~  Perhaps in the future our gardeners can attend Master Classes in gardening at a community college, or go to work for landscaping companies or garden centers.  Thus The Garden could come to help with job skills training.

 

For Now, a Hope for Healing

 

In a time of ’food insecurity’, growing what can sustain you has real power in and of itself.  Along with this, perhaps someone who is in transition in their lives will come to dig or weed or plant in The Garden and remember…  she or he had a garden as a child with their family, and it was a good thing.  A healing reconnection to the past could be made by someone who has been alienated from his or her loved ones.  Perhaps someone will realize, after feeling for a very long time that he or she can do nothing right in society’s eyes or their own… they have a skill, a gift and can make a contribution.  Few things are more powerful than feeling that we matter and that we have something to give.

 

E-Mail:  thegardensouthdallas@earthlink.net

Karen Shafer

 

P.S.  Within 48 hours of writing “The Magic of Gardens”, I received this e-mail from my grandson, Louis, who is six (Cora is his cousin, also six):

“i herd about the homeless garden wen you get started can we help? and is cora helpeng.  love, louis.”

Good news travels fast!!!

 

“…What I do you cannot do:  but what you do, I cannot do.  The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things.  But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”   ~~Mother  Teresa

 

Link:  Dallas Homeless Network Blog [http://dallashomelessnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/04/garden-for-homeless-community.html]

 

Hot Off the Presses! DMN’S Kim Horner & Courtney Perry March 28, 2009

 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

 

Hot Off the Presses!

Kim Horner and Courtney Perry of the Dallas Morning News 

on Homelessness in Dallas

 

A friend just brought me the early edition of the Dallas Morning News for Sunday, March 28, 2009, which he knew I’d want right away.  Front and center on page 1A is the first in a series of articles by Kim Horner, with photographs by Courtney Perry, on homelessness in Dallas, with an emphasis on the ‘chronically homeless.’

 

In reading the article, I was impressed by Kim’s sensitive and comprehensive grasp of this very complicated and heart-rending issue.  I learned a great deal that I didn’t know about aspects of the problem that I never see.  I think this first installment is excellent and goes beyond anything I’ve previously read on the subject here in Dallas.  As usual, Kim is balanced and non-polemical while, I believe, laying out the complex challenges involved in addressing the problems covered.

 

Courtney’s photographs are excellent and show us that she’s been places in the city that few of us will ever go, not surprising for this intrepid photographer.  

 

Kim and Courtney have really done their homework for this series of articles.   I look forward to future installments.  I’m thinking ‘Pulitzer.’  What do you think?

 

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/032909dnmethomeless.34d3691.html

 

By the way, SoupMobile gets a mention in the section, ‘Reaching out to the homeless:  Other social services’.  Well deserved!

 

KS

 

 

Just Like Us February 26, 2009

Thursday, 2/26/09

 

Just Like Us

 

One of the best and kindest people I know — and definitely the smartest — is my friend, John.  He’s one of those people you look at and think:  “How does he do it?”  He is a doctor of theology and teaches at a Dallas university.  He speaks six languages, including Latin.  And, oh yes, he is a classically-trained pianist and vocalist.  Gosh, John, is that all???  

 

You’d think he’d be ‘full of himself,’ but instead he’s full of humility, humor and love.  The first time my grand kids met him, they talked for an entire year about a story he told them that night — off the top of his head — about a fanciful character called ‘Princerella.’

 

John also puts himself on the line.  When I first mentioned mobile feeders of the homeless to him a few years back, he was volunteering with them within the week.

 

I sometimes find myself spouting a concept that sounds pretty clever and suddenly realize, “Hey, wait, I so didn’t come up with that.  I first heard that from John.”  I think of the hatred one often sees directed towards individuals who are homeless by people who don’t know them and have not had personal relationships with them, except perhaps to pass them on the street.  There are strong examples of this prejudice in comments on public blogs.  

 

When I get frustrated with this irrational hatred and become angered by it, I will sometimes stop and think, “But such hatred is in itself a particular kind of poverty.”  And then… “Wait, I first heard that idea from John.”  I shared this concept with a friend, LeAnne, by e-mail this week when we were both riled up about something unjustly written about our homeless friends, and she got it right away, writing back, “…you’re right.  How awful to have to live that way.” 

 

Here’s part of an e-mail I received from John this week.

 

“Karen,

I guess some people judge the community by different perspectives, and particularly when the economic environment is so troublesome, I think people fear for their own survival. When they do so, helping others becomes a luxury that can be left behind. Prioritizing during crisis makes sense. 

I think the city has to come up with a way to understand the humanity of the homeless in a way that will help the rest of us see how we are better together than apart. Unless you meet the homeless and talk to them, it’s hard to see what we have to gain from knowing them and living with them. Knowing them as the other, they can be caricatured and dispensed with. We do it with so many people…”

 

To me, this e-mail goes to the heart of the matter.  So often, our hearts and minds are changed dramatically when we meet homeless individuals, talk to them, and find out that they are…

 

just

like

us.

 

 

KS

 

Dallas International Street Church February 12, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

 

Dallas International Street Church

 

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of eating lunch with Pastor Karen Dudley, founder and head pastor of the Dallas International Street Church on Second Avenue in Dallas and some other friends of people who are homeless in Dallas.  The church had just been shut down by the Dallas Fire Department for the second time in two months.

http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2009/feb/10/dallas-international-street-church-protesting-fire/

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/dallas/stories/020509dnmethomeless.201ef9b7.html

 

Previously, in early December, 2008, the Street Church had a number of fire code violations which were corrected.  The church got its ‘green tag’ and reopened at the end of December, which meant by the fire department’s standards, it was up to code at that time.  I visited the church for the first time during that closure, and wrote about the experience on this blog:  

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/miracle-on-second-avenue/

 

Rumors abound as to the reasons for this closing, so I’ll not add further fuel to that fire here, but rather will stick to what I know, which is this:  no one in town is doing what Pastor Karen is doing.  She is taking in and giving refuge and care to people who literally have no other options.  The population she serves and the neighborhood where she serves them are both extremely vulnerable.  And… she does what she does with unconditional love the equal of which it would be hard to find anywhere in this city.

 

Last Saturday night I also had the pleasure of attending the taping of Pastor Karen’s worship service at Access 34 Television.  It was the second time I’d heard the Dallas International Street Church gospel choir — they are terrific!  I hope they produce a CD soon — I’ll be the first in line to buy it.  I suggested this to the choir director, and he said, “First, we have to get the church reopened.  Then we need a keyboard that doesn’t short out when we’re playing it!”  

 

Anyone have an extra keyboard lying around in the garage you’d like to donate???  If so, I promise you’ll be proud of the choir it backs up!

 

Here’s a message from Pastor Karen’s website:  http://www.kdministries.org/

 

“The time is now. If you can help in any way, please contact me, Pastor Karen Dudley, Dallas International Street Church, 2706 2nd Ave., Dallas, Texas 75210  Phone: 214-928-9595”

 

KS

 

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

 

http://www.wilkinsoncenter.org, P.O. Box 720248, Dallas, TX 75372, 5200 Bryan St., Dallas, TX 75206, 214-821-6380

 

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:  http://www.FreetheGods.com/phts/]

 

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. [http://www.rootsofempathy.org/]

 

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.

 

KS

 

Pregnant and On the Street August 19, 2008

Current Journal

Tuesday, 8/19/08

 

I had this experience two years ago.  I befriended a young street couple;  the woman was pregnant.  I tried in vain to help them find temporary housing.  The short version of the story was that I spent many hours calling every nonprofit I’d ever heard of on their behalf (they didn’t have access to a telephone), and the couple didn’t fit the criteria for any of the programs I contacted because they weren’t married and wouldn’t separate.  They wanted to marry but couldn’t because the man’s identification documents had been stolen, and there were complications from his background in getting them reissued.   

 

I didn’t know a lot about the different organizations who were helping the homeless at that time, and I could write a book on what I learned from that experience.  Things are much better in Dallas since then, especially with the Bridge providing a central location for services.  One thing that was evident then and still is: there were many groups helping the homeless in their own small and valuable way, few of them knew what the other was doing, and none of them could help my friends.

 

The couple ended up moving from the street into an abandoned building in Deep Ellum, then to underneath a bridge, where she miscarried.  It was maddening, trying to put together a puzzle that actually did involve life and death — with many of the pertinent pieces missing.  I simply couldn’t believe that in a city this size, with wealth this predominant, there wasn’t a housing program that would accommodate them together temporarily until the baby was born.  Guess what?  To my knowledge, there still isn’t.

 

Christian organizations do most of the ‘heavy lifting’ with the homeless and depend on church congregations for financial support.  Since the church does not condone living together without marriage, service providers that are connected to the Christian faith community do not generally allow unmarried couples to be housed together in their programs.

 

I might as well go ahead and appall my fellow feminists here and say that I hold a pro-life stance, so I am going to proceed to call the living being within a woman’s belly a child.  If we are going to address this problem of homeless women staying on the street while they’re pregnant and put the unborn child first — first above our ideas of the morality or immorality of conceiving a child out of wedlock — then we have to revisit housing pregnant street mothers who are unwilling to give up living with their street husbands and consider housing them together.  These couples are often married in their own eyes but not married legally or in the eyes of society.

 

Here’s why:  most of those women that I’ve known won’t separate from the man they are with while they are homeless.  They will stay on the street rather than go into housing alone because, along with the emotional and physical attachment they have to ‘their man’, he has been and is their protection — in fact, often their very survival.  The woman I spoke about in the first paragraph told me that, even when she was with her ‘man’ — and he was big, tough, and strong — other men on the street reached out and grabbed at her body frequently, pregnancy notwithstanding.

 

Another thing:  I’m not a person who generally feels I need to be taken care of, but when I was pregnant, this changed.  I felt particularly vulnerable during this phase of married life.  Many other comfortable, middle-class women I know have said the same thing, and one can imagine the magnification of this if one were homeless.

 

People will say these women should think twice before they get pregnant while homeless.  How about this statistic?  I have been told that at least 25% of socially and legally recognized marriages are ‘shotgun’ weddings, and that’s a conservative number of those that are willing to admit to their situation.  But in ‘polite society’, we can rush up the wedding or hedge the conception date.  Unplanned pregnancies happen in all segments of society, but homeless women can’t hide theirs behind closed doors.  Do I think it’s the world’s greatest plan to conceive a child while one’s living on the street?  Of course not, but it’s happening, and that’s the reality.

 

It is all well and good to carefully screen the individuals we let into our nonprofit programs and then report marvelous numbers and statistics of success about how well we’ve served them.  What about the people who don’t meet our narrow criteria?  What if those people are carrying around a new life within them?  What’s our priority?

 

Many years ago, my cousin, Lyn, whom I deeply admire, founded a pilot program for pregnant teens at an inner-city high school in a poverty-and-crime-ridden area in my hometown.  She and her organization, the Junior League, built a day-care center on the school grounds for the children to be cared for while the parents finished high school, and required both the mothers and fathers to take parenting classes, which the center provided.  The program was tremendously successful.  Many young women graduated from high school who would have dropped out, attended college, raised their children and had successful lives because of Lyn’s program.  It became a national model.  The most important part to me was that much better mothers and fathers were created because of the parenting training, and all kinds of problems were circumvented because of those new skills.  I was utterly amazed to learn later that some people in town complained that Lyn and her program were causing teen pregnancies!

 

I call myself a Christian, and I am a churchgoer at that.  Still, call my viewpoint pragmatism or moral relativism if you will.  But we cannot claim to honor unborn life and then fail to do every single thing in our power to facilitate its well-being because we do not approve of the lifestyle choices of the parents involved.  Housing those parents together, regardless of paperwork, in order to give them some stability, guidance, protection and structure would be a start.

 

KS

 

This article is linked to the following:

http://larryjamesurbandaily.blogspot.com/2008/09/pregnant-and-on-street-reality.html#comments

http://www.everydaycitizen.com/2008/09/pregnant_on_the_street_and_don.html

 

Guest Commentary by Pat Spradley August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

 

America, The Land of Unequal Opportunity

by Pat Spradley

 

Homeless people are not all the same.

Homeless people are not all the same. There are some who for some reason, no matter what you do, will never break out of the homeless trap they are in. That might be due to mental illness, drug use, alcohol addiction, disability or a multitude of reasons, many of them cumulative. These are the individuals who require assisted housing with social service support, or they will just return to the streets. In some cases, they will return to the streets even with supportive services, and there is nothing we can do about it. Fortunately, this is a minority among homeless individuals, and most often these are the ones you will encounter during your day-to-day activities on the street. Unfortunately, too many of us keep that perception of homeless people in our minds, unwittingly thinking it is representative of all of the homeless population.

 

What about the majority?

The majority of homeless individuals and families are down on their luck. They may be suffering from the consequences of poor decisions, abuse, and loss of work, injury or other unfortunate circumstances.  In these cases, a little help and encouragement can go a long way. These are individuals who are seeking a chance to start over or just need a little help to get them back on their feet.  Many are individuals who just need someone to have faith in them, offer encouragement and give them a hand when assistance is needed. In many cases, with proper help and guidance early on, these individuals will escape homelessness never to return. Unfortunately, it is this population that often has the most difficulty getting the help they need and may find themselves caught in a downward spiral with no hope.

 

Why is this happening?

The squeaky wheel approach is being taken, and those who are seen and wanted out of sight are getting the focus. In the process, there is no safety net, or giant holes are created in the small net that is there, for those who could be saved from chronic homelessness early on. They are left with very little help, especially single men who are childless. It does not take long for the social stigma and predicament to take a toll on these individuals, and our opportunity to help with minimal assistance is lost. They are trapped in no man’s land and left to flounder on their own. They are in survival mode, and a whole new psyche evolves. Depression overwhelms them; many develop drug or alcohol habits just to cope. They aren’t bad people, they just give up hope or learn to survive in a different world than the housed.

 

Prevent homelessness with opportunity.

Everyone in this great country deserves an opportunity for meaningful work and a roof over their head to compensate for that work.  Job skills differ, and we are not all learning abled in the same way.  We know that jobs at all levels need to be performed to keep a healthy economy.  We must recognize that the need for affordable housing in ALL areas is needed to support ALL workers, including those who may be differently abled or performing in the lower-paying jobs.  That should include being able to live in the neighborhood where you work.  More affordable housing is needed in all areas and needed now.

Our one-size-fits-all method of education must change.  It is time, once again, to start teaching trades and skills in schools that prepare youths who are not college material how to make a meaningful living and life for themselves. Not everyone is college material, and we must stop selling the fallacy that no degree equals failure.  We need people with trade skills and always will.  Create and encourage job training programs in our schools which will create opportunity. This will prevent homelessness for many and offer an escape from homelessness for others.

Every homeless person has a story, and we must remember that their story is as unique and different as each individual we encounter.  In a democracy, you will never find a level playing field for all, but there is more we can do to help those who desire to succeed. It may be a different degree or level of success than our own but no less important.

 

Pat Spradley is the Editor of Street Zine, a newspaper which provides self-help for people living in poverty.

 

Post Removed: Please Read Note August 4, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

 

From Thich Nhat Hanh:

       ~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

 

[I am very sorry to report that I have had to remove this post about extreme poverty in other parts of the world because of continued and extremely objectionable spam it has generated coming into the spam blocker of this blog.  Although I never opened it, the tag words themselves were very offensive. You can read the quote that was here in Thich’s book above, under the essay entitled “Flowers and Garbage.”]   KS,  10/11/08

[Also see May 1, March 31, March 11, 2008, or click on ‘Buddhism’ under ‘Categories.’]

 

Slavery Today: Buying and Selling Children July 9, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

 

Did you know that, by one account, there are more slaves on the planet today than at any time in history?  27 million.  Many of them are children.  If there’s a topic nearer to my heart than homelessness, it’s the deplorable plight of so many children world wide.

Last night, ABC News’ Nightline did a report on child-trafficking in Haiti.  Here’s the link:

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=5326508&page=1

The report was hard to watch.  I cried during much of it, because of the subject matter and because one of the girls in the report resembles so closely one of my granddaughters.  Nonetheless, if we refuse to know, we are unable to make in impact, right?

So, please, click on the link and watch or read the report.  Then click on “Click HERE to learn more about what you can do to help end child slavery.”  These children are people who TRULY have no voice, and, in my view, their exploiters represent the greatest evil on the planet.

KS

 

The Bridge Is Open! May 22, 2008

 

This past Tuesday, May 20 was a momentous day for Dallas and its homeless citizens.  A new, $23 million, state-of-the-art homeless assistance center, The Bridge, opened in downtown.  Here is a letter from David Timothy of SoupMobile describing the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the facility.

 

Subject: Report from the SoupMan to SoupMobile Advisory Board

Date: May 21, 2008 3:58 PM

 

Dear Advisory Board Members:

The following information is an update of recent changes in the homeless situation in the City of Dallas.

On Tuesday May 20th, the new homeless assistance center, The Bridge opened for business. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held in the main courtyard of the new center. In attendance were the Mayor Tom Leppert; the Dallas City Council; Mike Rawlings (The Homeless Czar); various dignitaries; guests and about 150 homeless people and five members of the staff/board of the SoupMobile.

The Bridge is a multipurpose facility designed to provide services to the homeless ranging from basic medical care; job training; hair cutting services; restrooms; showers; food and shelter. However it is not a true shelter in the way we would normally think. Inside the main building are approximately 100 beds that are actually small cubicles that have a bed, locker, drawers and chair. These 100 beds are called transitional beds. They are NOT for long term use. They are to be used for patients coming out of Parkland Hospital; clients transitioning into drug or alcohol rehab programs; and other clients which are transitioning into permanent housing.

[Blogger’s Note:  There is even a kennel for pets of the homeless, and a playground and secured area for women and children.  KS]

In addition to the 100 transitional beds the facility has an open aired building that will house up to 300 homeless people per night who will sleep on cots. These cots are not permanent housing. Each night as the homeless enter the facility they can sign up for a cot. If more than 300 people want cots, then they will do a lottery to see who gets a cot for the evening.

The new facility is a big step up in services for the homeless. However it is not the ‘cure all’ for the homeless problem in Dallas. Its estimated that there are more than 10,000 homeless men and women in the Dallas area. Clearly The Bridge will only be able to serve a portion of these men and women. Even with The Bridge online, there will still be a massive need for additional homeless services.

… I will be personally volunteering from time to time at The Bridge. I am starting by volunteering this Friday evening to help them serve the evening meal in their cafeteria….they are in need of help and [we want] to keep our finger in the pie as we look to possibly partner up with The Bridge at some future date.

May the Lord bless you all. 

David Timothy, a.k.a. The SoupMan

SoupMobile

3017 Commerce St.

Dallas, Texas 75226

 

Blogger’s Note:

May I add that I am very optimistic about the impact this center will have on the lives of our homeless friends.  I am particularly encouraged by an article I read in the Dallas Observer, May 8, 2008.  It’s well worth reading.  Here’s the link:

http://www.dallasobserver.com/2008-05-08/news/dallas-the-bridge-homeless-center-s-progressive-approach-may-actually-make-a-difference/full

A non-punitive, non-criminalizing approach is the most workable and effective when approaching the problem of homelessness, in my opinion, and statistics bear this out.  I am heartened to see that this appears to be the philosophy which will implemented ‘top down’ at the Bridge.

True, there are concerns from the homeless advocacy community:  for example, as it appears the Pavilion will fill up quickly and people will be turned away at night as there are not enough temporary beds to provide shelter for everyone who wants it, there is concern that this will lead to ‘zero-tolerance’ from the city on the streets, arresting those who are still sleeping outdoors and once again filling the jail with homeless people.  However, it looks as though those who don’t have a bed will still be able to stay on the Bridge campus.

Nonetheless, as I sat and listened to the speeches at the ribbon-cutting, and, later, as I watched the new lounge fill up with hot, exhausted, drained, thirsty homeless individuals seeking refuge in the beauty, cleanliness, and icy cool air-conditioning of the center, I felt that the weight of the world was off my shoulders and that, for now, nothing could dim my optimism about this giant leap forward for Dallas.  The entire community has pulled together to offer the best to those who have nothing, and I call that a great day.

KS

 

A Middle-Class Homeless Crisis in Dallas? May 21, 2008

This blog received a comment on the post entitled “Broken” from a friend in my church, Church of the Incarnation (Episcopal) that I hope you’ll go back and check out (May 15, 2008.  Click on ‘Comments’ at the bottom of the post.)  

May I just say…I love my church, not only because it is a beautiful, old building with lovely, reverential services, but because of people like English, who care enough to ask the hard questions and to show up on Christmas Eve at the Hyatt Regency Dallas for the SoupMobile’s Christmas Angel Project — and to go to Honduras to build schools, and to New Orleans to rebuild houses, and to fight poverty in Belize, and to mentor in areas of poverty around our very blessed church property, and on and on (it requires an entire book to list all of the outreach that is done out of Church of the Incarnation, thanks to Outreach Director Martha Lang and many others).  My fellow parishioners and our priests put their love on the line constantly all over the place.

Anyway, I hope you’ll read the comments of the “Broken” post where English asked an important question:

“Do we have a middle-class homeless crisis in Dallas?”

and read the response from David Timothy, AKA SoupMan, of SoupMobile Mobile Soup Kitchen.

I would love to know what readers think.  What is your experience and what are your observations?

KS

 

Services Provided by The Bridge May 3, 2008

Dear Readers,

Here’s a link to the website of a group of people who have generously allowed me to work with them on Friday nights at the Day Resource Center for the last couple of years while they serve dinner and give away clothing.  They provided me with a way to give away the clothing I like collecting, which opportunity I lost when the homeless camps were razed by the city in 2005.

The post gives a list of the services to be provided by the new homeless assistance center, The Bridge, when it opens in May.

http://www.ourcalling.org/2008/04/25/the-new-center-will-provide-what/#comments

KS

 

 

Worthy or Unworthy…Is That the Question? April 28, 2008

“It’s not about whether people are deserving. It’s about our compassion.”

Journal Archives

Monday, 5/9/05

When the subject of  the homeless comes up in general conversation, people frequently want to discuss ‘Unworthy Homeless Persons I Have Encountered.’  Often that single, and sometimes unpleasant, experience with a street person becomes a certain knowledge of the ‘ubiquitous homeless.’  The ‘shiftless’ mother who, babe in arms, asks for money for formula and takes it straight into a liquor store somehow becomes every woman out on the street who has a child and asks for help.  The stories may well be true, but they miss a couple of points.

Helping the homeless is not about their worthiness.  It is about our giving.  If receiving blessings were dependent upon worthiness, would you and I have all that we have?

If you see someone misusing a resource they’ve been given, that’s not a reason to refrain from helping the person in need that comes along.  What if she’s in earnest?  If you give aid to five women in a row who buy liquor with the money and meet a sixth who’s on the level, would you deprive that sixth hungry child of the help she’d receive from you?  Or, if you want to be sure of how what you give is used, you could go and buy formula for the child yourself.

This is one of the reasons I have liked working with mobile soup kitchens, who go to feed the homeless where they live.  There are no questions asked, as Jesus asked no questions when he helped the poor and the sick.  The worthiness of the recipients is not at stake.  The work is about compassion.  There are no qualifications required except that a person be hungry, thirsty, cold, in need of solace.  “Ask, and ye shall receive.”

There is no single profile for a homeless person.  There are hustlers, manipulators and thieves on the street, yes.  Ditto drug addicts and alcoholics.  There are also veterans:  about 40% — people broken by war in body, mind and spirit, the same people who were heroes when they went off to war.  There are families who lost their jobs and missed a few house payments, finding themselves on the street.  There are mothers with children who ran from an abusive husband in the middle of the night and didn’t know how to seek out a shelter or couldn’t get in.  Do I want to feed and clothe these people if I have the opportunity?  Yes.  Do I want the woman who lives under a bridge because her ex-husband tied her up in their basement for a long period of time and she can’t bear confinement to get treatment for her trauma?  Yes.  If she doesn’t or is unable get it, do I want to offer her a sandwich?  Yes again.

Do I want to interview each of these people when I encounter them to determine whether they fit someone’s profile of worthiness?  Definitely, no.

KS

 

The Stewpot Calls for Volunteers, Donations at The Bridge April 22, 2008

Here is an excerpt from the current newsletter of The Stewpot, “In As Much”:

“Dear Friends,

Many of you have stepped forward in the fight against hunger. We ask that you go another round….
No knockout punch will be thrown in this ring. This fight is about endurance. It’s about compassion.

The Stewpot will continue to offer a wide range of social services at its current location. But in the next month we will move our meal service to the city’s new homeless assistance center (The Bridge), allowing us to expand from five meals a week to 21.

We ask that you consider adopting a day or a meal to assist our downtown neighbors. The Stewpot will underwrite 20 percent of the cost not covered by city funding. That means a $1000 donation will adopt a day for your congregation or group. A gift of $400 will cover lunch or dinner, and a gift of $200 will cover breakfast for the estimated meals that will be served each day. [Any amount will be appreciated!]

There are volunteer opportunities as well. Your congregation or group can adopt breakfast or dinner any day of the week at no cost. Lunch is available for volunteer groups to serve on the weekend.

Sincerely,
Rev. Dr. Bruce Buchanan
Director”

To donate:
1. On-line credit card at: http://www.thestewpot.org/loavesandfishes.asp
2. Mail payment to: The Stewpot, 408 Park Avenue, Dallas, TX 75201
3. Call: (214) 746-2785, ext. 236, or E-mail Lee Hutchins at leeh@thestewpot.org
[A percentage of every dollar donated between 3/1/08 and 4/30/08 will be matched by the Feinstein Foundation.]

To volunteer:
Contact Bobbie Taylor at: bobbiet@thestewpot.org
Indicate day of the week, Monday through Sunday, and preferred meal times: Breakfasts from 6
— 7:30 a.m., Dinners from 6 — 7:30 p.m., Lunches from 11:30 a.m. — 1:00 p.m. (weekday lunches are already taken)
Please provide: contact person for church group; email and phone of contact person; organization name; address of church, city, state, zip; # volunteers available.

 

Little Ones April 2, 2008

BLOGGER’S NOTE: Regarding the children in this story, I am glad to report that I have rarely seen children on the street in about the last three years. This is purely subjective, but our city seems to be doing a better job of getting them into shelters. I am printing this story to show what children sometimes go through.  KS

Journal Archives
Thursday, 2/19/04

Employed!

I went to help crew the mobile soup kitchen truck at the last minute today, as some volunteers had cancelled. I didn’t need to buy the prenatal vitamins for Robin after all, as she and her husband, Sean, had left for the Gulf Coast last night. I didn’t meet Sean last week, but the director told me he is movie-star handsome and is in fact an actor. He was in a soap opera in Los Angeles, then came out to Dallas for an acting job that fell through, which is how he and Robin ended up on the street. He just procured a job on an oil rig at the coast, so they’re headed south.

I worked ‘on the ground’ for the first time tonight, which means standing outside the truck receiving the food from the passthrough at the rear of the truck and handing it to people — sort of crowd control, although there’s nothing to control — our customers are usually very polite. There are most often male volunteers out front, but it was a ‘girl group’ of workers this time. I like the closer contact with people that being on the ground provides, getting to reach out and touch them and talk to them for a minute.

We gave away all the socks I’d bought at the dollar store at the first stop. There was one young man at the City Hall Plaza, dressed in a single light shirt, who asked for a blanket, but we didn’t have any. Blankets will be my focus this week at thrift stores.

One of the people that touched my heart especially tonight was a young man who couldn’t speak — though he could make sounds, I couldn’t understand him, and I hated that I couldn’t. He was asking for something and pointing, perhaps another sandwich, but we had run out.

Little Ones

It was a pretty upbeat run because it wasn’t too cold, and at most stops we had enough food for people to go through the line several times. Then at the third stop came a stomach punch. A mother and two daughters, ages about eight and ten, came through the line and got their food. The director made a special effort to get off the truck and visit with the little girls, giving them some extra cookies.

When we’d finished handing out food, I noticed the family of three sitting together under a tree across the park. I walked over to talk to them and saw that they’d made a bed on the ground out of one thin sleeping bag, so I asked if they had a place to stay for the night. The mother said they’d been kicked out of two shelters. I asked her why, but couldn’t understand her answer; then she told me the shelter said she didn’t do her chores. Privately, I questioned her story, but didn’t confront her about it. I have not known the shelters to kick out children.

For the first time since I’ve been doing this, I thought I was going to start sobbing: those beautiful, trusting little girls with their brilliant smiles were looking up at me from the ground. I asked the mother what she needed. ‘Blankets,’ she said, but we didn’t have any, so I went back to the truck and got a heavy plastic bag for them to put under their sleeping bag and also gave them two thick sweaters I had brought along. ‘Will you be safe here?’ I asked her. She said she hoped so.

The director and I wondered aloud if in fact the shelter did kick out this mother with kids, but just before we left the stop, the mother told me she might be able to get into Austin Street Centre tonight after all.

I continue to be really shaken up by this experience, finding it devastating, and I’m haunted by the thought that I should have done something more to help them. But what? Call 911? Would that have made their situation better or worse? Bring them home to stay at my house? Although the latter may be the answer in my heart, it’s almost certainly not realistic and brings up all sorts of questions. But don’t radical problems require radical solutions?

In retrospect, I believe I made a mistake in not calling 911. I had never encountered such a situation before, and we left the scene before I could think it through. One thing I know: little girls sleeping under a tree in the cold in a park in downtown Dallas is not acceptable.

KS

 

Fellow Countrychildren March 24, 2008

This link is from the Co-Grandmother of our three grandchildren, Nancy (married to Steve.)

http://www.photovoice.org/html/galleryandshop/photogalleries/

I hope you’ll look at all the screens, but then go to Screen 3 and click on ‘Street Vision’. These are our youngest grandchild’s fellow ‘countrychildren’ in Vietnam.

When my daughter and son-in-law went to Vietnam a year and a half ago to bring our granddaughter back to her new home in the United States, they fell in love with her first home and country of birth and its beautiful, gracious, loving, peaceful people.

These pictures touch me to the core. Our granddaughter, now three years old, is an angel beyond what we could have ever hoped for or dreamed of, and so are the children in the pictures.

KS

 

Children, Stuffed Animals, Hot Cocoa and Grace February 15, 2008

Journal Archives
Monday, 12/29/03

When the rear door of the mobile soup kitchen slides up and I see the faces of the people lined up outside waiting for food, it’s as if a powerful energy and grace flow from them into me.

Tonight, my daughter, Mandy, sent along two new plush stuffed animals in case there were children in the food lines of the mobile soup kitchen, and at City Hall Plaza, the first two people in line were children. The soup kitchen director asked if she could be the one to give them the toys. A girl, about seven, chose the lion, and her brother, who looked to be around four, embraced the gray monkey and held it tight. Someone in the crowd around him said, “Look, he doesn’t even care about food! He just wants the monkey!” And the homeless people surrounding him laughed in a carefree way and shared for a moment in his joy.

We had enough food so that at the last stop, some people were able to come through the line three or four times. Some of the cookies had gotten wet, and, when the crisp cookies were gone, I scooped up the soggy bits in my plastic-gloved hands to throw them away, but people stopped me, asking for what was now ‘goo,’ so I opened my hands and they scooped it out, eating it eagerly.

Then, as we were closing up the back of the truck — all the sandwiches, soup, bananas, and nearly every cookie crumb having been given away — a man hurried up to the truck, looking as if he’d come from a distance. “Am I too late?” he said. “We’re so sorry, everything’s gone,” we told him. He was very lean and weathered and obviously hungry. He struggled to hide his disappointment, and succeeded. “Well, I just got here too late, it’s OK,” he said, as we apologized again. It was heartbreaking.

It occurred to me while driving to the bookstore for my ritual hot cocoa, a metaphorical foot still in the ‘street’ world but edging back into the reality of north Dallas, that it is dangerous to look out at the faces of the people lined up outside our mobile feeding truck and think that their being homeless is an acceptable and inevitable reality. One must, I think, keep sharp in one’s mind that solutions must always be sought to homelessness and hunger, even if they’re never found. One cannot acquiesce.

Am tired, drained, going home. I am so grateful that I have one.

KS