The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Servant? Leader? Both. May 23, 2015

Filed under: Christianity,healing,Henri Nouwen,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:52 pm

Saturday, May 23, 2015

 

Servant? Leader? Both.

“Ministry is… a mutual experience… [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.

 

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead… Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix up the roles! But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship!

 

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.

 

Therefore, true ministry must be mutual. When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits. The world in which we live — a world of efficiency and control — has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd. Even the so-called ‘helping professions’ have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion. The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world. It is a servant leadership — to use Robert Greenleaf’s* term — in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader.”

 

               ~~ Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 
*Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

 

Lent: I’m Not Much, But I’m All I Think About February 18, 2015

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace — Karen Shafer @ 11:40 pm

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent: I’m Not Much, But I’m All I Think About

This evening I sat in the beautiful Church of the Incarnation and listened to a wise, direct, and very profound sermon by our rector, Bishop Anthony Burton, on preparing for Lent.

In speaking of the temptations that Christ experienced during his forty days in the wilderness — which we symbolically replicate through our observance and celebration of the Lenten season — Bishop Burton clarified them in a way I hadn’t previously understood: Christ, he said, was tempted to become the star of his own show — the centerpiece of his own movie.  He refused.

As I sat through the service, surrounded by the majesty of a church I’ve loved for decades, I observed how often my thoughts are centered upon myself.  Briefly, I can be fully present within the momentous mystery and magic of what is going on around me, but quickly and automatically, I am back to…  assessing myself, critiquing myself, speculating about myself…  which then turns in an equally automatic way to quick and sometimes even scornful and petty judgments of people around me.

To quote a friend who has spent decades successfully working twelve-step programs, “I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.”

Referring to the unremitting humility of Jesus and of His unwillingness to become a person of consequence and importance — or, perhaps in today’s parlance, one could say His unwillingness to become “relevant”, the bishop said, “I want that.”

So do I.

ks

Church of the Incarnation incarnation.org

 

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

 

Connected February 26, 2013

Filed under: Christianity,inspiration — Karen Shafer @ 8:23 pm

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

 

Connected

 

“When a butterfly flaps its wings in front of me, it can be felt in China.”

~~  A Carthusian Monk

 

Common Cathedral February 13, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2012

 

Common Cathedral

 

I’ve just been invited by my daughter, her family, and a wonderful friend who is a nurse serving the homeless community in Boston to attend services at Common Cathedral one Sunday in the next few weeks.  Can’t wait!

 

http://ecclesia-ministries.org/common_cathedral.html

 

Prayer for Peace December 16, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

While cleaning off a bookshelf today, I found a bookmark with this printed on it in one of my mother’s old prayer books.  Not so easy to do, but worth trying for…  KS

 

Prayer for Peace

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt,  faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

 

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;  

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

 

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Being Led August 20, 2012

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 2:54 am

From Henri Nouwen:

 

“Let me tell you about a[n] experience connected with my move from Harvard to L’Arche. It was clearly a move from leading to being led.  Somehow I had come to believe that growing older and more mature meant that I would be increasingly able to offer leadership. In fact, I had grown more self-confident over the years. I felt I knew something and had the ability to express it and be heard. In that sense I felt more and more in control.

 

But when I entered my community with mentally handicapped people and their assistants, all controls fell apart, and I came to realize that every hour, day, and month was full of surprises — often surprises I was least prepared for…. Often people responded from deep places in themselves, showing me that what I was saying or doing had little if anything to do with what they were living. Present feelings and emotions could no longer be held in check by beautiful words and convincing arguments…. Without realizing it, the people I came to live with made me aware of the extent to which my leadership was still a desire to control complex situations, confused emotions, and anxious minds.

 

It took me a long time to feel safe in this unpredictable climate, and I still have moments in which I clamp down and tell everyone to shut up, get in line, listen to me, and believe what I say. But I am also getting in touch with the mystery that leadership, for a large part, means to be led. I discover that I am learning many new things, not just about the pains and struggles of wounded people, but also about their unique gifts and graces. They teach me about joy and peace, love and care and prayer…. They also teach me what nobody else could have taught me, about grief and violence, fear and indifference. Most of all, they give me a glimpse of God’s first love, often at moments when I start feeling depressed and discouraged.

 

My movement from Harvard to L’Arche made me aware in a new way how much my own thinking about Christian leadership had been affected by the desire to be relevant, the desire for popularity, and the desire for power.  Too often I looked at being relevant, popular and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry.

 

The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, ‘Do you love me?’ Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people…  Old patterns that have proved quite effective are not easy to give up.

 

I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility.”

 

~~ From In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 

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.”

 

 

Change November 16, 2011

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:02 pm

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

 

Change

Change — even change for the better — is often approached with apprehension.  “In giving up something,” people think, “will I be left with nothing?”  It takes courage to renounce the known for the unknown.  It is not easy even to renounce a famliar pain for an unknown, and therefore uncertain, happiness.  The mind is like a horse that for years has pulled its delivery wagon.  The horse grows accustomed to its daily route, and cannot be convinced easily to walk a new one.  The mind, too, will not lightly abandon its old habits, even when it knows they cause only misery.

 

Beneficial changes should be embraced with courage.  As long as one’s hope for better things are opposed by fear of their attainment, the mind can never be at peace.  Accept change, therefore, as life’s only constant.  Our lives are an endless procession of gains and losses, of joys and sorrows, of hopes and disappointments.  At one moment we find ourselves threatened by the storms of trials;  moments later, a silver lining brightens the gray clouds;  then, suddenly, the skies are blue again.

 

                                  ~~ Paramahansa Yogananda, The Wisdom of Yogananda, Volume 5

 

 

Generic Ministry Cares for Boston Homeless in All Weather March 1, 2011

 

‘Generic Ministry’ cares for Boston homeless in all weather

by Karen Shafer, February 10, 2011


The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” -Hubert Humphrey, 1977


The Boston area has been slammed by an unusually large amount of snow this winter, even by New England standards — six snowstorms in a month — but that does not stop John Mark, Judi, Mick, Robert, Scott and the dedicated volunteers of Generic Ministry in the small town Needham, Massachusetts from hitting the streets of downtown Boston every Tuesday and Wednesday night to care for those who are homeless.  During a visit to my family in January, 2011, it was my privilege to ride along with this dedicated group for two nights in the midst of the some of Boston’s most extreme weather in years, and to learn a little bit about the situation for our homeless brothers and sisters in the Boston area.  Although Boston provides an adequate number of shelter beds for its homeless population, there are always people in any city who are ‘shelter resistant’ — unable or unwilling to cope with going into shelters, often due to mental illness and its ramifications.

 

The Generic Ministry van is equipped with shelves of warm clothing organized by size and type, with hanging racks of winter-worthy coats, with bins of socks, underwear and hygiene products, and with military surplus blankets, all of which are stocked and sorted twice weekly by a ‘behind-the-scenes crew’ made up of Robert (who also coordinates all contacts), Rick, and Scott, and by Martha, who finds online deals for the toiletries.  Sandwiches made by school children in Needham and adjacent towns are available, as are bottled water, juice, chips and desserts.

 

John Mark loads the van on a cold January night

 

Street feeding is not prohibited in Boston as it currently is in Dallas, and requires no registration or permit, but I was still surprised the first night when we pulled up right on the busy street next to the sidewalk across from Boston Common and opened up the van for the distribution of food and clothing.  The food giveaway is run by volunteers who themselves are formerly homeless, and they were waiting for us in front of a popular hamburger restaurant when we arrived.  Immediately about thirty people came out of nowhere and formed a line behind the truck to request warm clothing, while traffic on the busy street patiently drove around us.  Generic Ministry volunteer Mick filled orders for specific clothing items and sizes from inside the van.  Short a worker for manning the food line, Anthony and James, who head up the formerly-homeless volunteers, put me to work distributing food from a table on the sidewalk, although we had to search for a path through the snow bank, which was about waist high.  (By the time I left the area a week later, the snow banks were higher than your head!)

 

After everyone had been served, the remaining sandwiches, chips, desserts and bottled water were given to the formerly-homeless volunteers to distribute among people who sleep in train stations, doorways, alleyways, and on church steps throughout the city.  At this point there was ample time for visiting and street counseling.  The Generic Ministry volunteers have warm and mutually-respectful relationships with their street friends and seem to know them well.  They hand out cards printed with information about shelters, emergency services,  medical care and rehabilitation, but their service goes way beyond this.  If someone is in need of transportation to a shelter or the emergency room (there are three major hospitals in the area), they will transport them in their van — or call 911 if appropriate, and they keep track of the situations and challenges of individuals from week to week.

 

One of the people I’ll always remember from that first night is Harry.  He had brought with him a beautiful spiral bound notebook tied with ribbons, and I saw him ask John Mark for his signature.  It turns out he was collecting autographs in celebration of the life of Sargent Shriver and his advocacy for those living in poverty and with disabilities.  Then he pulled a twenty dollar bill from his pocket and gave it to John Mark as a donation for the ministry.

 

The next night, as we made the ministry’s usual stops around downtown Boston, Harry met us again at one of the locations to help out.  I was sitting in the front seat of the van with the door open, and he came up to say ‘hi’.  He was so cold that his teeth were chattering and he was shivering, as the temperature edged in the direction of zero for the second night in a row, but his dedication is such that he had gotten a ride from the halfway house where he lives in a small town outside of Boston to come and aid the ministry.  I offered him a blanket to wrap around himself, but he laughed as he declined it — “Oh, I’m not homeless!” he said.  John Mark later told me that Harry had collected clothing for his homeless brothers and sisters in the past and gotten a ride for the half-hour trip to the ministry headquarters to deliver it in person.

 

A highlight of the Wednesday night outing was a visit to the Pilgrim Church Homeless Shelter in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a neighborhood of Boston, where Generic Ministry delivers desserts weekly.  The shelter operates without guards, metal detectors or policing of any kind, except for the self-policing done by those who stay there, despite the fact that Pilgrim Center takes in men who have been banned from other area shelters.  Out of respect for those who were already bedded down for the night and those who were waiting in line to get in, I walked through quickly, but the order and calm of the shelter space — a church sanctuary with the pews removed — made a deep impression on me.

 

Later, outside on the snow-covered parking lot, I was introduced to the church’s pastor, The Rev. Mr. John Odams, and I asked him how the shelter works so well without guards.  “We used to have a policeman on duty, but he didn’t have anything to do,” he told me.  “I’m not sure why it works.  Maybe it’s because it’s more an atmosphere of a home than a shelter.”  A large number of those who stay at Pilgrim Shelter have aged out of foster care, not having been adopted by the age of eighteen, so the shelter is run under the direction of the United Homes Adult Services division of Children’s Services of Roxbury.

 

Keeping an eye on the weather, we left Dorchester and drove into downtown Boston.  An emergency weather declaration had been issued for Boston that night — with the expectation of a winter gale predicted for 9 P.M. and slated to bring at least an additional eight inches of snow on top of the approximately four feet that had already fallen this winter — which means any car blocking roads or impeding snowplows can be towed by the city at the owner’s expense.  As we drove around downtown, emergency vehicles were busy removing cars that had been left parked in order to make way for snow plows and sanding trucks.  Despite the amount of snow that had fallen in the last several weeks, the streets of downtown were clear of snow, having been plowed and sanded aggressively in preparation for the next round that night.

 

The ministry know the whereabouts of a number of individuals and groups who ‘sleep rough’ in the downtown area and makes about a dozen stops on its Wednesday night rounds.  In front of a downtown Seven-Eleven, we saw one of their ‘regulars’ — Sammy — sitting hunched over on a low windowsill.  Judi got out to check on him, while we pulled over by a snow bank and parked the van next to the sidewalk in the valet area of an elegant-looking restaurant.  I was surprised that no one asked us to move, though there were a number police cars cruising the area, as the streets were still actively being cleared of parked cars.  Judi came back to the van with the message that Sammy had a leg injury and wanted to go inside somewhere for the night, so together she and John Mark helped him into the van.  It had seemed at first that Sammy was willing to go into Pine Street Inn, a major Boston shelter, or to the hospital, but en route to the shelter he made the decision to go back to his camp in the back of a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority train station, so we took him there, and Judi and John Mark helped him limp inside.

 

Sammy had left Barbara McInnis House (which provides respite medical care for homeless men and women) against medical advice that same week, and, on our way to his camp, he and Judi discussed his plan for re-admittance.  I was struck again by the nonjudgmental and respectful-yet-realistic approach that Judi took with him, acknowledging his rights as an individual to make choices — good or bad — yet encouraging in a calm and supportive way the healthy choice of rehabilitation and medical care.  It is because of this non-patronizing approach that Generic Ministry — called ‘earth people’ by their homeless friends — has the trust and confidence of this extremely wary, at-risk population.

 

At one point we parked in a cab stand, and the cabbies waited patiently in line behind us as a small group of people lined up for clothing, blankets and sandwiches and we visited with them.  A prosperous-looking man walked by and stopped to watch what we were doing.  He looked at the ‘Generic Ministry’ name on the side of the van and nodded:  “I like it,” he said.

 

Mick & John Mark making the rounds after a snowstorm

As we continued our rounds, including a visit to another MBTA station encampment, I expressed my surprise that people are allowed to seek out and create their own shelter in the downtown Boston area, considering the restrictions on homeless people in Dallas and other cities and the amount of resources that many cities spend on policing to keep them off the street.  Here is a conversation from a Boston Herald article which seems to sum up the city’s approach towards it homeless citizens.  The article covers a high-profile homeless woman who refused to go indoors for this cold snap, saying she could handle this level of cold.

 

Homeless woman shuns shelter as temps turn deadly

By Christine McConville / The Pulse / Tuesday, January 25, 2011

http://bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1311794

“I’m not that cold,” she said, as she showcased her seven layers of clothing. “I can handle it.”Not possible, Boston police Superintendent in Chief Daniel Linskey told the Pulse. While police can’t force people off the streets, he said, he doubts the wisdom of testing the elements.  “This cold is a different type of cold. It’s lethal. You can have negative effects just being exposed to the elements for a few minutes,” Linskey said.

This weekend, the city ordered evening shelters to remain open during the day and relaxed requirements for other, sober-only facilities. There’s the obvious threat of frostbite and hypothermia, said Dr. James O’Connell, who provides medical care for Boston’s many homeless.  And in extreme weather conditions, chronic medical conditions can really tax the body, he said.  “There’s nothing good about staying outside in this,” he said.

Each year in Boston, one or two people die from the extreme cold, he said, numbers kept down by active campaigns to get people into shelters….

No one can force [the woman] indoors.  “It’s a tricky situation,” O’Connell said. “People have the right to live their life the way they want.”

Linskey agreed.  “If someone can show us their sleeping bag and a heat source, and they are lucid and have the method and manner to survive the cold weather, we would allow them that option, if what they are doing is legal,” Linskey said. “If they’re drunk or in harm, we can put them in protective custody, but mainly, we’re just looking for them to go to the shelter.”

Yesterday, the city’s push appeared to be largely working. The Pine Street Inn was setting up extra cots to accommodate the overflow crowd, shelter spokesman Barbara Trevisan said.

O’Connell said he’s seeing some patients indoors for the first time.  “There’s an elderly man in his mid 70s, and this weekend was the first time in 26 years I’ve seen him sleep in a bed, rather than a sidewalk,” he said. “With the bitter cold and all the snow, even though he struggles to be around other people, he realized it’s better to be inside.”


This article seems to represent a fundamentally different view of homeless issues and civil rights than what we are accustomed to seeing in many cities, and certainly in Dallas.  Perhaps it can be classified as ‘non-criminalization’.  One often hears about the ‘rights of individuals’, but this so often means that the rights of those who have financial means supersedes the rights of those who do not:  property owners, business owners and organizations of those who are housed are more likely to be heard than those who are disenfranchised and have nothing.

 

At our last stop, a small tent camp on Boston Harbor that had been in the news because of the city’s efforts to persuade people living there to come inside during the extreme cold, Judi and John Mark delivered some supplies to the campers on foot.  Then, as we began the drive home, we looked up at the Boston skyline, which was just beginning to be shrouded in a mist of snow.  “It’s here,” said John Mark, of the impending snowstorm.  It was making its appearance just over an hour past its predicted start time and had thankfully given us a grace period to complete our rounds.  By the time we reached my family’s house about twenty minutes away, the footprints that we’d left on the driveway just a few hours earlier were completely obscured by the steadily falling snow.

 

Generic Ministry, Needham, Massachusetts

www.genericministry.org

Pilgrim Church Homeless Shelter, Dorchester, Massachusetts

http://www.pilgrimchurch1862.org/ministrytothehomeless/pilgrimhomelessshelter.html

Pine Street Inn, Boston, Massachusetts

http://www.pinestreetinn.org/

Barbara McInnis House, Boston, Massachusetts

http://www.bhchp.org/specializedservices.htmhttp://www.bhchp.org/pdf/BMHBrochure-JYP.pdf

This article appeared in the March, 2011 issue of Street Zine. http://www.thestewpot.org/sz.asp


 

Relationship January 17, 2011

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership — Karen Shafer @ 9:47 pm

Monday, January 17, 2011


“You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people.  In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”


~~ Thomas Merton

 

Psalm 140 January 13, 2011

Filed under: Christianity,inspiration,Leadership — Karen Shafer @ 9:05 pm

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Psalm 140


Deliver Me, O Lord, from Evil Men

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

 

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;

preserve me from violent men,

2 who plan evil things in their heart

and stir up wars continually.

3 They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s,

and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah

 

4 Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;

preserve me from violent men,

who have planned to trip up my feet.

5 The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,

and with cords they have spread a net;

beside the way they have set snares for me. Selah

 

6 I say to the Lord, You are my God;

give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O Lord!

7 O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation,

you have covered my head in the day of battle.

8 Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;

do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted! Selah

 

9 As for the heads of those who surround me,

let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!

10 Let burning coals fall upon them!

Let them be cast into fire,

into miry pits, no more to rise!

11 Let not the slanderer be established in the land;

let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!

 

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,

and will execute justice for the needy.

13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;

the upright shall dwell in your presence.

 

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

 

Conversations in Brief September 5, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

 

 

Conversations In Brief

 

I have a friend who is unhoused, and I fear he always will be.  He’s been given a ‘diagnosis’ — a label for a mental disorder — but he doesn’t necessarily know this, or prefers not to acknowledge it.  To get housing, he’d have to sign away his sanity in order to qualify for disability payments, and this is something he’s either unable or unwilling to do.

 

When I read comments on blogs about ‘the homeless,’ and hear them described bitterly — ‘bums, no-goods, get-a-job’ — I think how my friend would be someone the commenters would be referring to if they just saw him on the sidewalk.  Except he worked all his life.  He also attended two elite universities, excelling in physics and chemistry, and served in the military.  But somewhere along the line his mother died, and things in his mind and emotions began to unravel.  His last job, which he did faithfully, was drinks manager at a drive-in restaurant.

 

The fog deepened.  Before long, he was on the street.

 

I think about him often, worry about him, too.  When the homeless-haters talk about the drunks and addicts on the street, I think of how my friend is clean and sober.  When they talk about the thugs that are the homeless, I recall his gentleness and nonviolence.

 

I brought him a new coat during the cold winter weather last year, and as he was transferring his belongings from his filthy torn jacket to the new one, I saw that he had one possession — a tattered pocket-sized New Testament.

 

How does he survive out there in the hellish land of street life?  It’s hard to imagine and painful to ponder.  I question him about it, but his answers, as always, reveal little.  They, and he, are enigmatic to a point.  I asked him recently if he felt safe.  ”Not really,” he said.  Not too long ago, he had a bad wound on his forearm, and I wanted to know what happened.  ”I don’t remember,” he replied.  But I can’t push for more.  He can’t tolerate a lot of conversation.  This summer I asked, “How are you in this heat?”  ”Hot,” he said.  Last winter I wanted to know, “How were you during the snow last week?”  ”Well, cold,” was his reply — two words rather than one!  That’s an improvement.  I’ve known him about four years, and it’s taken our conversation that long to progress to this level.

 

Today I sat beside him in a meeting where our county’s public hospital was being discussed.  ”Do you use Parkland Hospital?”  I leaned over and whispered to him.  He must not have heard me right, because he turned and looked me full in the eye [he usually communicates only sideways and in murmurs] and replied, emphatically and perhaps a little testily, “PARKLAND.  MEMORIAL.  HOSPITAL.”  He apparently thought that either it was a vacuous question or that I was hard of hearing.  I didn’t give up, though:  ”I know, but do you use it?”  (One has to hold one’s own.)  He went into a brief and mumbled explanation — something to do with ‘phases’ — but the words trailed off and I couldn’t hear them.

 

His fingernails today were long but very clean (a first), but his t-shirt was quite grubby.  I’d luckily brought along a new t-shirt for him from Target in a dark gray, because it will probably need to go at least a month without washing.

 

“Where do you eat?” I asked him recently.  ”Nowhere.”  ”Well, how do you get by?”  ”Oh, Pepsodent helps.”  [Three words!]  I burst out laughing, and he did, too.  Eating toothpaste?  A little street and gallows humor.  So once in a while I bring along a sack of fruit cups and those little tins of tuna salad with crackers.  Today I had some fresh organic bananas, which he pulled out and ate on the spot.  One day, I stuck in a couple of croissants.  ”Oh, croissants!” he said, delighted.  Two words again.

 

I feel very powerless about my friend sometimes, because I am powerless.  I often fall back into the old trap of wanting to ‘fix it.’  I can’t, though.  On a good day, I can take that step beyond fixing it and fall headlong into Grace — landing on banks of beautiful, towering, white, fluffy cumulus clouds, like the ones on greeting cards that talk about Heaven — and I can genuinely trust that everything will be fine.

 

Other days, I repeat to myself (not necessarily believing it and certainly not being able to live by it), ‘If you pray, don’t worry.  If you worry, don’t pray,’ a misquote, I believe, of Martin Luther.

 

On yet other days, I realize that to be near my friend — in his presence — is to know God directly.  I don’t have to do anything — just show up and realize that Love has shown up, too.

 

The hard part of being his friend is accepting that I can do nothing — letting go of expectations, forgetting that he’s a genius with unfulfilled ‘potential’, not expecting ‘progress’ on some sort of pie-in-the-sky bar chart.  ’Progress’ may come, or it may not.  However, it is not up to me.  But our culture doesn’t really allow for the possibility of not ‘moving up,’ does it?  Not ‘taking the pills’ in order to ‘get well’ or at least ‘function at an acceptable level’ in order to ‘fit in’?  Most of the time, neither do my own built-in biases.  This friendship constantly challenges me to see life…  not in gradesABCDF…  or dollars1to7figures… or positionsdirectorofsomething… or contributionsinkindfinancialgivingofyourtalentsandabilities — but as something that can just be still, and be more than OK — be holy and sacred.

 

KS

 

 

 

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

 

The Medium Is the Message June 25, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Medium Is the Message


“McLuhan understood “medium” in a broad sense. He identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of the concept of “the medium is the message”. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.” ~~ Wikipedia


Marshall McLuhan is right.  And that is primarily what I took away from the Town Hall Meeting at Methodist Hospital this past Monday night over the city’s plan to house up to 100 homeless individuals in Oak Cliff Manor.  The [forgive the hyperbole] rabid [forgive the hyperbole again] mob mentality became the message — and the incivility [ understatement] of many in the group was, tragically, mostly what many of us gleaned from the interchange.  Whatever valid points were made by ‘the O.C.’ and its more rational, civil residents were lost in the cat calls and shouting down of speakers by the more outspoken [understatement also] representatives of the neighborhood.  I would have been deeply embarrassed to have them represent me, and I think many of the reasonable Oak Cliff residents may have felt the same.

You can keep up with the unfolding drama here:

http://dallashomelessnetwork.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile, a message from the thesaurus:

Uncivil:  ‘Lacking in social refinement’

Synonyms:  rude, discourteous, disgracious, disrespectful, ill, ill-bred, ill-mannered, impertinent, impolite, incivil, incondite, inurbane, mannerless, uncalled-for, uncourteous, uncouth, ungracious, unhandsome, unmannered, unmannerly, unpolished, brusque, crusty, curt, gruff, harsh, intrusive, meddlesome, crabbed, surly, boorish, churlish, clownish, loutish


That doesn’t say it all, but it’s a start.

KS

 

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

 

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?


 

T.S. Eliot on Epiphany January 3, 2010

Filed under: and a little child shall lead them,Christianity — Karen Shafer @ 8:21 pm

Sunday, January 3, 2009


T.S. Eliot on Epiphany


1NOW WHEN Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men [astrologers] from the east came to Jerusalem, asking,

2Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east [a]at its rising and have come to worship Him.

~~Matthew 2

The Journey of the Magi

by T.S. Eliot


‘A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For the journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.’

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

 

For To You December 28, 2009

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

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 2009


For To You


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


Luke 2:  10-12


Merry Christmas!

 

Streamlined December 12, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Written December 2, 2009

Streamlined


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

~~ Matthew 5:42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My emotions seem to have become streamlined, too.

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

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

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

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

KS

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

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

 

What a Night! December 4, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009


Dallas International Street Church Celebrates It’s Twelfth Anniversary


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

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

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

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

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

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

KS

www.kdministries.org

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

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

Praise Dance at DISC 12th Anniversary Party

 

Perspective: Carlos Gomez December 1, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


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


The Million Dollar Band-aid

 

Our world has lots of problems that come in different ways

The affliction of each one is harmful to the human race

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

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

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

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

We are living in the days were even pain feels pain

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

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

Our cities are overwhelmed with homeless people every where

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By Carlos Gomez 11-2009

 

 


 

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

 

Overwhelming Need November 14, 2009

 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

With winter upon us, it’s a good time to reflect upon the extremes of need that will exist this year for those who are not yet housed and are living on the street.  I found this entry in my journal from the end of last summer, when I still volunteered at the Second Chance Cafe, run by The Stewpot at the Bridge, and thought I would share it.  KS


Journal Archives, Friday, August 16, 2008


Overwhelming Need


Sometimes the amount of need among people who are experiencing homeless in Dallas — even with the welcome advent of the Bridge, our new homeless assistance center — seems overwhelming.  This was one of those nights.  The enormity of the problems of the people involved, the monumental scope of the pain in their lives, the scarcity of readily available solutions, such as adequate housing:  these things were at the forefront of my mind tonight as I left the Second Chance Cafe at the Bridge after helping to serve dinner to somewhere between seven hundred and eight hundred people.

 

Of course, this evening’s bright spot was, as it always is, looking into the eyes of people as they came through the food line.  Always, but even more so tonight, the eyes of the guests meeting mine as they came through the line — almost without exception — were full of light, respect and dignity, longing for acceptance,  willingness to respond with love to the smallest kindness — so much more so than I would ever be able to be in their circumstances.  They almost always say ‘Very Blessed,’ or at the least ‘Can’t complain,’ when asked how they are doing.  The other great blessings are the other volunteers, who show up every week, and the Stewpot staff, which shows up every day.

 

I find that if I just hand somebody a plate in the food line at the Bridge, they may be looking down, preoccupied or frowning, and go on their way with a ‘thank you,’ but without ever looking up.  If I greet them or ask how they are doing, their whole face, their whole being changes — they become radiant.  If I say their name, they become a friend.  And that is no different than you or me.  It’s just that the desperate nature of their circumstances keeps it real:  they know how much it means to have a friend, and what it means not to have any.

 

Why is it that sometimes, like tonight, I look at homeless individuals and the scope of homelessness in Dallas and feel weighed down by the challenges?  Is it seeing people as their ‘diagnosis’ or label rather than seeing them just as the people they are, in the here and now?  Maybe. 

 

I usually see the beauty when I go to the Bridge.  Tonight I could only see how far there is to go.  It was one of those rare times when I say to myself, “How do those who deal with this face to face every single day — for example, the Stewpot staff or the caseworkers and management at the Bridge — how do they do it all the time without losing hope or becoming jaded?”  Granted, I think, write or talk about homelessness in Dallas every day, but I go to the Bridge only a couple of times a month.

 

Perhaps it’s a ‘fix-it’ mentality that one can get into, although trying to ‘fix it’ is a necessary component of approaching the problem as a whole.  Sometimes, though, until we can figure out what we need to ‘do,’ maybe it has to be enough just to go to where the pain is and ‘be with’ it.  It seems that there is tremendous grace in that.  In face, maybe, while action is necessary, being present for someone is the most important part of taking action anyway.

 

Granted, it may not be enough to ‘hang out’ with people who are experiencing homelessness.  But being with them, talking with them, sharing their concerns — one human to another — is one of the most essential parts of what we do, just as it is with our families.

 

KS

 

Mutuality of Ministry November 3, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,Henri Nouwen,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 10:52 pm

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mutuality of Ministry

 

“I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.”  ~~ John 10: 14-15


“…the same Lord who binds us together in love will also reveal himself to us and others as we walk together on the road.”  ~~ Henri Nouwen

 

I read the following passages recently and felt they challenged, in important ways, certain commonly-held cultural assumptions about ‘helping’ and ‘serving others’.  What do you think?  KS

 

“Ministry is not only a communal experience, it is also a mutual experience…  [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.

 

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead…  Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix up the roles!  But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship?

 

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life.  We are sinful, broken vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.  The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.

 

Therefore, true ministry must be mutual.  When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits.  The world in which we live — a world of efficiency and control — has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd.  Even the so-called ‘helping professions’ have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion.  The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world.  It is a servant leadership*… in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader… a leadership that is not modeled on the power games of the world, but on the servant-leader Jesus, who came to give his life for the salvation of many.”

 

                               ~~ Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 

*Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.


 

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

 

Starlight October 19, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,hunger,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 7:59 pm

Monday, October 19, 2009

 

Starlight

 

“So do not fear,  for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  ~~ Isaiah 41:10 


“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”  ~~ Mary Shafer

 

The Shafer clan lost a radiant light when Mary Shafer died this past Wednesday in my hometown of Knoxville, after a 14-year battle with recurrent breast cancer.  A book could be written about her accomplishments, but I like thinking back to when I first met her.

 

I was going through Freshman Sorority Rush at the University of Tennessee, and, when I walked into the Phi Mu room at the Panhellenic Building, Mary, then the sorority’s president, met me at the door.  She took a look at my name tag, and her eyes opened widely.  She put her hand on my arm.  “Are you related to Bo Shafer?”  she said, her face alight with what I took to be hope.

 

As I answered Mary politely, “Yes, he’s my cousin,” and she, becoming even more animated, said to me, “We’re dating!” my first thought — which I obviously kept to myself — was, “Uh-oh, I can see that this poor girl is already in over her head.”  My second:  “Please… don’t get your hopes up,” which, fortunately, I also didn’t share, and next, “Ah, well, another one bites the dust.”

 

I don’t mind telling you, her question was one I got often, because, in addition to being tall and handsome, my older male cousin was frequently in the news.  He’d played varsity football for Tennessee and had met Mary when she was cheerleading there, but his philanthropic work and business acumen were what kept him in the public eye.  

 

This cousin of mine was a quintessential illusive bachelor in our town.  How many beautiful women had set their sites, and their hearts, on him?  I’d met a couple of them at family gatherings — rarely did I see them again.  It’s not that Bo was an intentional heartbreaker — it’s that he was looking for the Real Thing.  I realize now that he’d know it when he saw it, and it turned out to be Mary Gwyn, because the next thing I knew, they were married.

 

Bo wasn’t looking for a trophy wife, but rather for a partner in life, and he surely found it in Mary.  He was quoted on KnoxNews.com this week as saying, “I was so old I didn’t think I could fall in love, but I fell head over heels in love with that woman,” he said. “We never had an argument. Her goal in life was to keep a smile on my face, and my goal in life was to keep a smile on her face.”

 

A number of years ago, when Bo was International Kiwanis President, Mary traveled the world with him, even though she was in and out of cancer treatment at the time.  I could never figure out how she had the stamina to keep up the fierce pace of their commitments, and she never, ever complained.  Instead, she called her battle with cancer ‘an adventure.’  A devout Christian and active member of Second Presbyterian Church, her faith never seemed to waiver.

 

It was Bo who told me throughout my life:  “As middle-class Americans, we are in the top 2% of fortunate people living in the world.  For most of humanity, life is entirely different and much, much harder.  We are extremely spoiled.  It is our privilege and our obligation to give back.”  In Mary, he found someone who lived this philosophy at his side, day in and day out.

 

Bo said that, during the year of his Kiwanis presidency, he and Mary lunched with the King and Queen of Thailand and spent time in the most poverty-ridden villages in Africa.  It surprised no one that Mary was equally at home in either place.

 

During one of my family’s trips to Knoxville in recent years, each time we were with Mary, I knew I was in the presence of someone who was truly living the moments of her life to the fullest, cherishing her family and her life’s work.  The phrase ‘Seize the day’ describes her way of being in the world.  She was the kindest, the friendliest, the most caring individual one could ever meet, with an incisive intelligence.  She was also incredibly fun-loving.  As close as she and Bo were, her description of their recent wine-tour of France, with her imbibing a glass with every course, and Bo being a teetotaler, was hilarious.

 

At their house on the lake, where they spent every weekend, they have a tire swing in the living room.  Not too many women would think that went with their decor!

 

Mary and Bo sent out yearly Groundhog’s Day cards, which were always upbeat and inspiring.  In recent years, their greetings contained business cards for an organization called water.org., as Mary had developed a passion for finding solutions to the problem of clean water scarcity in developing nations.  Together, they built wells in Ethiopia and Guatemala.

 

The message of this year’s card was that life is so precious, we should never complain about small things.  She truly and fully took her own advice.  I am in awe of the life she lived and the legacy she leaves us all.  

 

Looking back to that week of Freshman Rush when I first met Mary, I recall that at the end of the week, Phi Mu did a pageant in which she played the lead.  The title of the presentation was “Starlight.”  All these years later, it fits more than ever.

 

KS

 

http://water.org/

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/oct/15/local-philanthropist-mary-shafer-dies-at-64/

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/mar/29/shafers-honored-for-their-service-to-others/

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/knoxnews/obituary.aspx?n=mary-gwyn-shafer&pid=134419134

 

 

 

Hard Questions October 8, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

 

Hard Questions

 

A friend of mine moved ‘off the street’ today and into housing, and it was big news.  His was a high-profile ‘success’ story, because this particular friend has been living a life of street-dwelling homelessness for quite a long time — fifteen years — and he has often been in the news, being a person who doesn’t mind being interviewed and is frequently poetically eloquent.

 

However, as is often the case, there is more to the story than its public version.  Isn’t there always?  The ‘more’ in this instance is that a couple of people — well, actually a person and a dog — got left behind when my friend moved into his new home.

 

I got a phone call from my friend’s ‘street wife’ of twelve years yesterday afternoon, saying that her husband had been informed by his employer, who had arranged for the housing, that he was to move into his new home early the next morning — only sixteen hours notice.  Initially, both husband and wife had expected that his housing would include a place for her, too.  When they recently found out this was not the case, they thought they’d have a week or so to try and make arrangements for her safety and well-being.  Additionally, his dog — his constant companion and best friend for eleven years — turned out to be over the weight limit for the housing and would need to stay behind.  And, in his new home, my friend will not be allowed to have visitors.

 

When the wife called me yesterday, she was distraught.  Media had been at their camp as well as at the new home.  Yet, even though his wife was present during the media visits, no mention was made of the her in any news report, nor of the fact that the dog (who did make it into the story!) and she are to remain behind in the ‘cardboard condo’ under the bridge.

 

The wife is frightened to stay out in the open camp without her husband and protector, with good reason.  So some of her ‘housed’ friends banded together today and came up with the money to pay for a two-weeks’ stay in a motel for her and the dog — a temporary fix, but better than sleeping alone under the bridge.

 

On the phone yesterday, she said she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go with him — had the rules at the housing unit been made purposefully to exclude her?  I reassured her that no, I didn’t think that was the case.  Rather it was more likely to be an issue of funding-raising on the part of the charity providing the housing.  Generally, at least in this part of the world, any sort of housing subsidy for homeless couples requires that they be legally married, which these two people are not.  They would like to be, but there are intransigent problems with his obtaining a divorce from a wife he’s been apart from for decades.

 

I’ll refrain from discussing how her husband made the decision to go ahead with his move, but I spent the afternoon today with my friend, the wife.  As we ran errands in my car, we cried together, laughed together, and visited two of my close friends who have been consistent and steady friends to people who are homeless — both very kind, wise, forthright and resourceful women.  Each of them gave the wife good counsel and support.

 

I believe that, God willing, she will be all right, and, hopefully, more than all right.  She has skills and resources way beyond what most of us possess after living on the street for over a decade, and there are a number of people who are willing to help make accessible to her tools that will help her move out of her current plight.  But her situation raises a number of hard questions, because there are many long-term, stable couples on the street in the same situation — unable to marry for one reason or another;  unwilling to separate in order to get into housing.  

 

Is there a way to make peace between our religious beliefs and morals, and the urgent need to help people — especially women as the most vulnerable parties — move from street-dwelling homelessness to a more stable life of being housed?  What is our priority?


How do those of us who are advocates and service providers share the story of someone experiencing homelessness or poverty with the public in a way that still presents him or her as a person with dignity?  How do we raise funds and practice public relations in ways that will help people move out of homelessness and poverty, without inadvertently falling into the inglorious category of helpers referred to as ‘poverty pimps’?


How do we hold people up as examples of our hopes, dreams and plans for our own organizations without exploiting them? 

 

Where does the line get drawn between the landscape of our plans for them and that of their plans for themselves, and how do we gracefully and honorably navigate the overlapping territory?  How do we do things that we believe to be truly valuable in helping other human beings without falling into the trap of believing we are their saviors?


Whose highest good is being served in this situation, when the cost of housing a husband is that his street wife and dog are left living under a bridge?

 

KS

 

Link:  See Dallas Morning News Photographer Courtney Perry’s blog entry, “Complexities,”  in response to this post at http://courtneyperry.com/pblog/index.php

 

Drawing Apart September 23, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 6:28 pm

Wednesday, September 17, 2009

 

Drawing Apart

 

‘And after the fire a sound of sheer silence.’  I Kings 19: 9-18

 

“This verse is often taken (not inappropriately) to suggest that we draw apart from the noisy bustle of the world to listen for the voice of the Lord…

 

But drawing apart from the world is not enough if we take the noise of the world with us, ‘that inner dialog with self that is a jumble of frivolous thoughts, worrisome cares, and negative feelings,’ as Thomas Merton put it. You don’t put all that behind merely by going off to a quite place — unless you intentionally let go of it, and that is not easily done.  It takes practice.

 

When you hose a concrete floor pools of water collect in the low places.  You sweep the floor, but the water returns to the low places.  You sweep again.  And Again.  Finally, perhaps the fiftieth time you sweep the water away, it has evaporated and does not return.  So it is with the cares of the world.  Let them go.  Let them go again.  And again.  Eventually, they will not return.  Then you can listen for the voice of the Lord.”

 

                                                                                   ~~ Forward Day by Day, August, 2008

 

St. Teresa: The Bookmark Prayer September 14, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace — Karen Shafer @ 6:54 pm

Monday, September 14, 2009

 

St. Teresa of Avila:  The Bookmark Prayer

 

Let nothing disturb you;

Nothing frighten you.

All things are passing.

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.

Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.

God alone suffices.

 

Saving Other People July 30, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Saving Other People

 

Someone said to me a while back that they’d ‘saved’ a person who was homeless by giving them a job.  I was surprised by this assertion and said so.  Do we really save other people?  In a war zone at the point of a gun, perhaps yes.  But when a person is given an opportunity, it is the person herself or himself who shows up every day and turns the opportunity into success.  “It seems to me that, depending on one’s perspective, either God saves people, they save themselves, or both,” I said at the time.

 

The person with whom I was speaking dismissed my objection, telling me it was just a manner of speaking, and that I had missed the statement’s greater intent.  But I think the distinction is important, because if we claim to ‘save’ someone else, either we are fairly arrogant in believing our own line of chat, or we are disingenuous and condescending in thinking others will or should buy into this concept.

 

Those who have tried and succeeded or tried and failed to help people get off the street know only too well: there are many factors that play into the outcome of such attempts, one of the most significant being the person’s readiness to make the gargantuan shift away from street life and into housing and employment. Timing is a critical element.

 

Not long ago I had a conversation with a man who had been living on the street for many years and battling homelessness, mental illness, addiction, and cancer all at once.  He had been placed in housing by a nonprofit agency, but partly because there were not adequate support services attached to the housing, and partly because — by his own report — of his own state of mind, he ended up giving up the apartment and going back into a shelter.  It was too much responsibility and too little structure battling all his challenges at the same time, and, he said, he was lonely, missing the street community of which he had so long been a part.  He then succeeded, within the shelter he had chosen to reenter, in getting his mental illness and addiction under control, got treatment for his cancer and went into remission, and was then ready to once more move into a permanent supportive housing situation.

 

Recently I asked a good friend, Pastor Karen Dudley of the Dallas International Street Church, how her program had gone about facilitating the rehabilitation of those people within her discipleship, many of whom I know to have tried many other approaches before coming to the DISC.  I was expecting a lengthy exposition on philosophy and practice and was quite surprised by the simplicity of Pastor Karen’s response, which is probably why I remember it.  She spoke first of the primary importance of the constant and ongoing spiritual and religious aspects of life at the DISC, and then said:

 

“but the reconstruction of themselves is up to them.”


That simple phrase has continued to ring truer to me than almost anything I’ve heard about helping people get off the street.

 

I know that I am prickly on this subject of ‘saving’ people, especially friends who are homeless, because I find this sort of rhetoric to be exploitive and demeaning, as though the person being offered assistance were a project or a specimen rather than a capable human being, full of dignity.  Granted, those experiencing homelessness often have extraordinary challenges to overcome, as would anyone in their place.  But I think we have to be oh-so-very careful where we draw the line in our attempts to communicate with one another about their struggles and the ways that we hope to partcipate in the solutions to their dilemmas.  In reality, how we couch our efforts in our language, as well as in our own minds, says a great deal about us.  The metaphor of reaching out to someone is a lot different from the image of reaching down to them.

 

KS

 

Dallas International Street Church:  http://www.kdministries.org/


 

Tommy [Not His Real Name] July 20, 2009

 

Monday, July 20, 2009


Tommy

 

There are occasionally people who impact one’s life significantly, even if you rarely see them.  For me, Tommy is one of those.

 

Tommy lives on the street and is always alone.  It is said of him that he won’t talk, but sometimes there are exceptions.  One of the people he’s always trusted is our mutual friend, Trey.  Trey is one of those earth angels to our homeless friends who does a very great deal to help them — and has for years — but does it all quietly and behind the scenes, with no fanfare.  He’s an important part of Tommy’s safety net, often buying him clothes and checking on him, and Trey will be moving out of town soon with his wife and young children.  So Tommy is strongly on my mind these days, knowing that an important link in his support network will soon be missing.

 

I saw Tommy this week at a monthly meeting that we both attend.  I usually sit at the same table with him at the meeting, but this week our tables were adjacent.  During a speech by someone that got a little lengthy, I looked over at him and he was looking my way.  He made the motion of casting a fishing line off into the distance and reeling it in, then cut a look back at me and flashed a rare, enigmatic smile.  I laughed.  “Somebody needs to reel in this speaker,” he was telling me.

 

I’ve known Tommy for a number of years, back from the time of the Day Resource Center when I used to volunteer there on Friday evenings, tagging along with Our Calling Ministries because they’d let me give away clothing I’d collected for our homeless friends after the ministry had served a hot, home-cooked meal to several hundred street people on the DRC parking lot.  Although his is a sizable physical presence, Tommy is so quiet and still that it is somehow possible to be almost unaware that he’s around.  I remember going away from a freezing cold evening on that urine-soaked parking lot and thinking, “Wait a minute?  Who was that person in a large army-green trench coat standing stock still most of the night, all on his own in the shadows?”  I had the feeling it had been an apparition.  Then I had the strangest thought — that it was Christ Himself among us. I still think that thought was right.

 

Soon Trey introduced me to him, and from that time on I made a point of saying, “Hi, Tommy,” whether or not he responded, but often he did.  Then one night in prayer circle, he was suddenly standing next to me and even held my hand.  From then on, I would often look up to find him standing nearby when I was handing out clothing, and sometimes we would have a brief conversation.

 

I wonder if Tommy mostly refuses to speak with people because sometimes his words don’t come out as he wants them to.  After this week’s meeting, I asked him if he needed some new clothes, as he tends to wear what he has down to the bitter end of its usefulness (and way past its cleanliness), and he replied, in his soft drawl, “Wellll…  I could use some shoes, or whatever you can get.”  I looked at his shoes, which have become well-vented over the summer through coming apart at the seams.  He told me his shoe size, and then, as has often happened when I talk to him, he began to speak further, but his words came out in a jumble.  (The words themselves are sometimes of the so-big-that-average-people-have-to-consult-a-dictionary variety.)  I saw him wince almost imperceptibly, as though he himself was surprised by it, and I tried not to register discomfiture but rather to go on with the conversation as though I understood.  This somehow seems to reassure him.  Although we both knew I didn’t get it all, it was OK, because we had made a connection.

 

One night on the DRC parking lot a few years back, I asked him if he wanted me to help him look for housing through a new program that Central Dallas Ministries was starting called Destination Home.  “No,” he said, “you see, I’m mentally ill…” and then his words continued in a stream but went off in an obtuse direction and were spoken so softly that I couldn’t understand them.  “OK,” I said when he was finished.

 

Somehow all of the highly-publicized help we are giving people who are experiencing homelessness in Dallas through our city services — and our arresting, ticketing, jailing and trying to force them into mental health care for which there’s inadequate funding to keep them there — as well as our efforts to transition them into housing that’s woefully insufficient because nobody wants ‘the homeless’ in their ‘hood — somehow all of this costly and much-touted assistance is passing Tommy by.  The only place I’ve seen him safe and cared for is The Stewpot. But he still lives on the street and sleeps in the open.  I continually ask myself how he survives.

 

When we can find a place for Tommy (and the many others like him) in ‘our world’…  a place that is safe, that he can trust, where he can be cared for and be able to care for himself, a place that is clean and out of harm’s way…  on that day, I’ll be willing to concede:  we will have made a good start on solving the problem of homelessness in Dallas.  But not until then.

 

KS

 

‘The Cost of Poverty’: Janet Morrison June 14, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

 

Janet Morrison on ‘The Cost of Poverty’

 

For those who have not come across Janet Morrison’s Community Dialogue blog, I find it a ‘not- to-be-missed’ voice with an eloquence and comprehension of the realities of the inner city and poverty that is rarely heard.

 

http://janetmorrison.blogspot.com/2009/06/cost-of-poverty.html

 

Today’s post in particular touched me, because it explains so well the cycle of the emotional cost of poverty on children and on families.  There’s much here I had never put together — it’s well worth a read.  Thank you, Janet, for your extraordinary heart and commitment.

 

KS

 

The Garden Is Growing! May 15, 2009

Friday, 5/15/09

 

The Garden Is Growing!

Update on The Garden: South Dallas, Texas

 

Stewpot Crew, Mack Houston

 

The Garden: South Dallas, Texas — a community garden for, by and with people who are homeless or formerly homeless in Dallas — is thriving under the leadership of the Discipleship of the Dallas International Street Church at 2706 Second Avenue near Fair Park.  Team Leaders from the DISC took charge and led a work force of forty people from The Stewpot’s Community Court Project in a successful and fun Garden-Raising Day on Saturday, May 2, 2009.  On April 2 we had a lovely but trash-littered field behind the church; by day’s end of the Garden-Raising, we had seven fully-planted organic raised garden beds!

 

All of us involved that day were tremendously joyful and proud of our accomplishment.  Not only did these energetic and hardworking crews clean up the field and dig the turf out of the seven 4’ X 12’ garden beds, they hauled and laid concrete block borders, carried organic soil by wheelbarrow from the soil pile to fill the beds, trimmed trees, dug a flower bed, built garden benches and tables, and — the best part — at day’s end, everyone celebrated their labor by planting all seven beds with vegetables, herbs and flowers.

 

To view a slideshow by Mandy Mulliez of the the garden site, planning meetings,

and the Garden-Raising Day’s events, look here:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=1bf3gjjt.cpdg2dyx&x=0&y=bi27he&localeid=en_US

********

 For a video clip of The Garden Team Leaders speaking on television about their experiences, look here:  http://dallashomelessnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/05/garden-south-dallas-video.html

 

 

For many of us, the best thing about the day was the way that teams of homeless and formerly homeless individuals from the two programs, the Dallas International Street Church and the Stewpot Community Court Project, pitched in and worked together in a spirit which was more than harmonious — it was truly joyous!  So many of us came away from the day elated with not only the significant physical accomplishments of the six crews, but the spirit of love, unity and camaraderie that we discovered working together.

 

More than once during the day, people came up to me and spoke of how hard it can be for people who live or have lived on the street to work together because of the challenges that each faces in his or her life.  They expressed happiness both in their creation of The Garden and in the way they were able to cooperate in order to create it.  Barry, one of the Stewpot supervisors, shared an observation of how people talked about their lives and their challenges with each other as they dug weeds, shoveled soil and planted seeds and plants.

 

Since the Garden-Raising, I’m proud to report that the six Team Leaders and their teams at the Dallas International Street Church have taken full responsibility for the care and nurture of their garden beds, watering them diligently, adding new plants, and reporting excitedly at our Garden meetings about which seedlings are emerging, what plants are producing, a couple of plants that are having problems and possible organic solutions.  We already have a burgeoning crop of green beans!  I quickly learned at our first full-church Garden meeting that we had many very knowledgeable and skilled gardeners in the congregation, and that knowledge grows and is spread around as people work side by side and share their expertise day by day.  A Friend of the Garden has even donated a hammock where the hardworking gardeners can rest from their labors!

 

Here are some of the things we are growing this season:  bush beans, Swiss chard, collards, Japanese eggplant, cucumbers, yellow crookneck squash, lettuce, onions, sugar-pod peas, carrots, okra, tomatoes, several varieties of peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, Italian-leaf parsley, cilantro, citronella, roses, marigolds, dianthus, zinnias, nasturtiums and about five other types of flowers — many of them tucked decoratively into the spaces in the concrete blocks.  One of our gardeners is creating a special butterfly and bee garden bed.  The gardeners have not only worked hard, they’ve been very creative in their garden design.

 

Something exciting and completely unexpected happened a week ago:  just as we had exhausted our initial Seed Money Fund, an Anonymous Angel left an envelope at my house.  On one side was written:  “DON’T ASK WHO…  PLEASE.  IT IS A GIFT.  KEEP UP WITH YOUR WORK.”  On the other side, it said:  “FENCE FUND.  GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS.”  Inside was… $500!  We are very grateful for such kindness, and this Saturday, May 17, the Stewpot DART Community Court Project is sending us another work crew, and we will install our new fencing!

 

If you are currently or formerly homeless, this is your garden, and you may become a gardener now or at any time by joining one of the teams at the DISC.  (The church office telephone is 214-928-9595.)

 

Although we are going to wait until fall growing season to invite groups of volunteers to come in from outside the community and work with us, everyone is ALWAYS welcome to visit us — just knock on the Dallas International Street Church door and ask someone to show you the path.  The Garden: South Dallas is a magical and serene place and one where we already love to sit with friends or alone, to talk or simply and quietly ‘find our peace.’

 

Karen Shafer

 

Special Thanks to:

Bruce Buchanan and the staff of The Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church, Dallas

The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, especially Martha Lang, Outreach Director

The Garden Advisory Committee

Friends of The Garden for financial support and in-kind donations

Mandy Mulliez for photography

The Dallas Morning News and Michael Ainsworth for a photo spread of The Garden in the Metro Section on Sunday, May 3

Nancy Baker of White Rock Coffee for great coffee

Aaron Hardwick and Mindy of Breadwinners Restaurants and Catering for breakfast pastries for 100

Sandra Davis of SoupMobile for providing lunch for 100

Soil Building Systems for special pricing on Organic Growers Mix

Lowe’s at Northwest Highway & Jupiter for materials at cost

Louis, Cora and Anna for inspiration

and, OF COURSE, Pastor Karen Dudley for her great leadership, compassion and kindness to us all!

 

Wish List:

a bird bath

a bat house

birdfeeders

concrete blocks for additional beds

cash for additional organic soil purchase

any and all healthy plants

any and all seed, especially heirloom varieties

gardening tools and gloves

limb loppers and pruners

a pole tree trimmer

a subscription to Organic Gardening Magazine [http://www.organicgardening.com/]

 

E-Mail: thegardensouthdallas@earthlink.net

 

 

The Garden-Raising Day, May 2, 2009 May 2, 2009

 

Saturday, May 2, 2009

 

The Garden-Raising Day, May 2, 2009

DISC & Stewpot Crews, Deborah in Center

DISC & Stewpot Crews, Edward in Center

DISC & Stewpot Crews, Larry in Front

 

As of today, The Garden: South Dallas, Texas exists on the ground and not just in our minds, hearts, spirits and to-do lists!  And it’s beautiful.

We had a wonderful day.   Thanks very much to every single person who was involved.

Particular appreciation to The Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church, Dallas;  The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation;  and The Garden Committee, all of whom made this possible.

Many Blessings, Karen


For a look at pictures of The Garden-Raising Day in progress, see the inside front cover of the Dallas Morning News Metro Section for Sunday, May 3,  2009.


 

Dallas International Street Church Gospel Choir April 26, 2009

 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

 

Dallas International Street Church Gospel Choir

 

My friends Sandy and Oliver have given me, over the last 5-1/2 years, literally carloads of clothing, blankets, shoes, and toiletries that I’ve given away to our friends who live on the street and under the bridges in Dallas. They are the most ongoing and prolific donors imaginable for people experiencing homelessness in our city. Oliver, a chef, works many Saturday nights, so Sandy and I go out to dinner then from time to time, and last night was one of those times.

 

When Sandy and I met to go to dinner last evening, she’d brought with her a clothing donation (no surprise) for the Glory Thrift Store at 2704 Second Avenue (75210), the thrift shop of the Dallas International Street Church. “Let’s go down to the Thrift Store right now,” I told her, “and I’ll show you the site for The Garden: South Dallas, Texas, which is nearby!”  She was game.  

[https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/the-garden-south-dallas-texas/]

 

We arrived at the Street Church, and two men I know from Pastor Karen Dudley’s discipleship were standing out front. I’d forgotten about their live televised church service every Saturday at 7:30 P.M., which I’d attended several weeks ago and really enjoyed.  “We missed the bus to the TV show by two minutes,” the guys told me.  “We’ll drive you!” I told them, and we headed over to the Access 34 Television studio.

[http://www.gospelondemand.tv/]

 

Inside the tv studio, we said hi to everyone, and, before the broadcast, Pastor Karen got all of us started singing — the choir, the audience — “When the Saints Go Marching In”.  Every time I’m in the presence of the DISC Gospel Choir, I can’t help singing, clapping, practically shouting along with their joy-filled sound, and last night was no exception.  By the time the broadcast started, everyone in the studio was swept up in the Love and the Spirit carried around the room by the choir’s beautiful voices and the sense of celebration in each face.  By the time they’d stopped singing, they had, as usual, brought me to tears.

 

Next time WFAA Channel 8 has its Gospel Choir Competition, we could all write in and support them in being part of it!

 

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]

 

With No Conditions March 21, 2009

 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

 

I clipped this out of The Angelus, my church’s newsletter, several years ago.  Knowing it’s Lent now rather than Advent, still it can speak to us poignantly.  KS

 

With No Conditions

 

“The day after Thanksgiving the New York Times told [the story] of a 33-year-old local cab driver…  About five years ago, this cabby ‘prayed to God for guidance on how to help the forgotten people of the streets who exist in life’s shadows.’ As he recalls it, God replied:  ‘Make eight pounds of spaghetti, throw it in a pot, give it out on 103rd Street and Broadway with no conditions, and people will come.’  He did, they came, and now he goes from door to door giving people food to eat.  


I am not asking you to stuff the Big Apple with spaghetti, but a New York cabby can bring light into your Advent night.  He prayed to a God who was there;  he listened;  he gave the simple gift God asked of him;  he gave ‘with no conditions’;  and people responded.  Here is your Advent: 

 

Make the Christ who has become a reality, a living light, in your life and in some other life.  Give of yourself… to one dark soul… with no conditions.”


               ~~Written by Walter J. Burghardt (from The Angelus, Newsletter of Church of the Incarnation [Episcopal])


 

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

 

Solutions: Warming Stations & Hypothermia Vans February 16, 2009

 

Monday, February 16, 2009

 

While Dallas city officials have been busy this winter enforcing ‘quality of life’ ordinances by ticketing and arresting homeless citizens during the bitterest cold weather, other cities have found more humane solutions to the question of “Where will homeless people be during cold weather?” 

 

Here are some links from various cities around the United States which have employed the use of ‘warming stations’ and ‘hypothermia vans’ to help those without homes get out of the cold:

 

Charlotte, North Carolina

“Warming shelters open for the homeless”

http://www.wcnc.com/news/topstories/stories/wcnc-011709-sjf-warmingshelters.39facf1.html

“Charlotte leaders activating emergency homeless shelters due to the anticipated cold”

http://www.wbtv.com/global/story.asp?s=9688511


Las Vegas, Nevada

“Warming stations for homeless opened”

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/dec/16/wintry-weather-prompts-warming-stations-homeless-o/

 

Middletown, Connecticut

“As cold hits, city makes sure homeless OK”

http://www.middletownpress.com/articles/2009/01/14/news/doc496eb19b3ceac545935506.txt

“City of Middletown says warming station in church breaks zoning laws” 

http://www.becketfund.org/index.php/article/901.html?PHPSESSID=fc0234a1f346cd20bbadf7c67a04def6

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081220/NEWS/812200336

 

Omaha, Nebraska

“Warming Stations Open For Homeless”

http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/36301774.html


Rochester, New York

“Poor People United, Emergency Warming Station kicks off!”

http://rochester.indymedia.org/newswire/display/3305/index.php

 

Portland, Oregon

“Volunteers needed tonight for warming centers”

http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2007/12/the_oregon_trail_chapter_of.html

 

San Luis Obispo, California

“Prado Day Center offers SLO’s homeless a second shelter from cold”

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/183/story/564073.html

 

Washington, D.C.

“Riding cold: Hypothermia van rescues homeless from frigid nights”

http://media.www.gwhatchet.com/media/storage/paper332/news/2007/03/22/News/Riding.Cold.Hypothermia.Van.Rescues.Homeless.From.Frigid.Nights-2786606.shtml

“Cold has agencies helping the homeless”

http://www.examiner.com/a-1170675~Cold_has_agencies_helping_the_homeless.html

 

Louisville, Kentucky

“Winter blast leaves 17 dead”

http://www.disasternews.net/news/article.php?articleid=3821

 

 

I am beginning to wonder:  are we going to be able to get it right here in Dallas?

 

Remember, we have less than 2000 shelter beds for around 6000 homeless individuals.  Let’s spend some of the money we have spent on policing this winter on warming stations (other than the jail) and hypothermia vans.  

 

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

 

Patience February 2, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,homelessness,hunger,inspiration,Leadership — Karen Shafer @ 9:35 pm

Monday, February 2, 2009

 

Man!  Leave it to Henri Nouwen to try to make me better than I want to be or seemingly have the capacity to be.  Just when I’m feeling impatient in the extreme with the City of Dallas and their treatment of the homeless and the pace of progress regarding change, he hands me this:


“Entering Actively into the Thick of Life”


“What, then is the compassionate way?  The compassionate way is the patient way.  Patience is the discipline of compassion…  The words ‘passion’ and ‘patience’ both find their roots in the Latin word ‘pati’, which means “suffering.”  The compassionate life could be described as a life patiently lived with others…  If we ourselves are unable to suffer, we cannot suffer with others.  If we lack the strength to carry the burden of our own lives, we cannot accept the burden of our neighbors.  Patience is the hard but fruitful discipline of the disciple of the compassionate God.


At first this may sound disappointing.  It really sounds like a cop-out.  Each time we hear the word ‘patience’, we tend to cringe…


But true patience is the opposite of a passive waiting in which we let things happen and allow others to make the decisions.  Patience means to enter actively into the thick of life and to fully bear the suffering within and around us.  Patience is the capacity to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell as fully as possible the inner and outer events of our lives.  It is to enter our lives with open eyes, ears, and hands so that we really know what is happening.  Patience is an extremely difficult discipline precisely because it counteracts our unreflective impulse to flee or fight.  When we see an accident on the road, something in us pushes the accelerator.  When someone approaches a sensitive issue, something in us tries to change the subject.  When a shameful memory presents itself, something in us wants to forget it.  And if we cannot flee, we fight.  We fight the one who challenges our opinions, the people who question our power, and the circumstances that force us to change.


Patience requires us to go beyond the choice between fleeing or fighting…  It calls for discipline because it goes against the grain of our impulses.  Patience involves staying with it, living it through, listening carefully to what presents itself to us here and now…  [it] means stopping on the road when someone in pain needs immediate attention…  overcoming the fear of a controversial subject…  paying attention to shameful memories and searching for forgiveness without having to forget.  It means welcoming sincere criticism and evaluating changing conditions.  In short, patience is a willingness to be influenced even when this requires giving up control and entering into unknown territory.”


                              ~~Compassion, Henri J.M. Nouwen, Donald P. NcNeill, Douglas A. Morrison

 

… ‘And Now We’re In the Woods’ January 15, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

 

I’ve known Scott for years, and, sometimes when I see him, he doesn’t feel like talking.  Sometimes when he talks, his words are so big and he is so erudite that I have to seek out a dictionary in order to understand him. Today, though, his words were simple and to the point.

 

“Where did they all go?” Scott asked me.  Although he himself is homeless, he was referring to the scores of people who used to sleep on the Bridge courtyard at night and have been unable to find shelter elsewhere.  

 

“I think they’re hiding in the woods,” I told him.

 

“This city has a horrible gut in it, and it digests people,” he said.  “And now we’re in the woods.”

 

KS

 

Powerlessness December 30, 2008

Filed under: Christianity,homelessness,inspiration — Karen Shafer @ 9:52 pm

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


God ‘Unmasks the Illusion of Power’


‘Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.’

~~Matthew 11:29


“God chose powerlessness.   God chose to enter into human history in complete weakness.  That divine choice forms the center of the Christian faith.  In Jesus of Nazareth, the powerless God appeared among us to unmask the illusion of power, to disarm the prince of darkness who rules the world, and to bring the divided human race to a new unity.


Through total and unmitigated powerlessness, God shows us divine mercy.  The radical, divine choice is the choice to reveal glory, beauty, truth, peace, joy, and, most of all, love in and through the complete divestment of power.  It is very hard — if not impossible — for us to grasp this divine mystery.”


                                        ~~Henri Nouwen,  ‘Advent Meditations from the Writings of Henri Nouwen’


 

We Built It, They Came, Now What? December 15, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

 

We Built It, They Came, Now What?

 

Here I sit in the same cafe where I sat exactly 5 years ago, thinking the exact thoughts I had the first time I went out with HungerBusters Mobile Soup Kitchen to feed the homeless on the streets of Dallas in 2003.  How are the people around me going about their daily lives (and how am I?) while homeless individuals in the hundreds are starving and freezing on the streets of our city?

 

This time, though, the public will has been mobilized, the $21 million has been spent building the Bridge Homeless Assistance Center in downtown Dallas, the ‘promise’ has been fulfilled, hopes have been raised for homeless and housed alike, and much good has been accomplished, only to have it come crashing down now that bitterly cold weather is upon us. It Has Been Built, and They Have Come.  And now They are locked out by the hundreds.

 

What a grim, and, for me, unexpected lesson in failed bureaucracy.  People who know much more than I do may have seen it coming.  I didn’t.

 

There is much rumor and hyperbole around the disastrous new policy implemented at the Bridge since December 1, so I am going to focus first on what I know for sure.

 

What I Know For Sure

 

~~People who do not have a Bridge ID cannot get into the campus for meals.  The numbers of meals served at the Second Chance Cafe by the Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church has dropped to around 1300 per day from around 2150.  That means that, currently, 850 times a day someone is being denied a meal that has been provided since May, 2008, and that Second Chance Cafe is committed to serving.  This meal service was promised in national and local media by Bridge management when the center opened.

 

A friend who was licensed to feed on the streets, but is now prohibited from feeding the homeless downtown by a city ordinance which does not allow feeding outside the Bridge, told me a story of a man coming up to his car on the street outside the Bridge asking for food and crying because he was so hungry several days ago.  Such stories are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

~~The Bridge ID application procedures have been unwieldy and frustrating, if not non-navigable, for the homeless, to say the least.  As of  the end of last week, the process for getting an ID required standing in 3 different lines for up to 3-4 hours, and sometimes still coming away with no ID.  Add to that that to get a Bridge ID, preexisting identification is required, and many chronically homeless people don’t have that, or have had their ID’s stolen, and you see the potential frustration inherent in the process.  Throw in the percentage of this group that are mentally ill and have poor coping skills to begin with.  Add to that the number of homeless people who have to be at work 6 AM, when the Bridge ID lines opened at 9 AM, and you start to see the complications of a solution that on its face sounds simple and reasonable.  There have been promises of streamlined procedures from Bridge management, and hopefully they will/ have come through.

 

People who were issued temporary ID’s as early as Thanksgiving still don’t have their permanent ID’s.  Sometimes they are admitted to the Bridge with a letter from their Bridge caseworker, and sometimes not, depending upon who is on duty at the gate.

 

~~ As to the Bridge sending its overflow guests to other shelters, I was out among the homeless during the subfreezing weather a week ago and learned that the shelters were requiring payment and identification, two things they are often without.  But, more importantly, I learned that on those cold nights the shelters were full.  Even if you discount the ‘shelter-resistant’ population — and you cannot in good conscience do that — I personally saw and spoke with many people sleeping outside shelters on those nights who told me they had tried to get in and were turned away for lack of space.  And, if you can’t get into a shelter, you obviously can’t eat your meals there.

 

Additionally, the working homeless are still at work at the time most shelters require occupants to be inside, around 4 PM, so they are essentially penalized for having jobs.

 

Just this afternoon I spoke on the phone with a friend who is currently sleeping under a freeway overpass  and offered to let him sleep on my couch.  He said overflow procedures are in practice at the shelters due to subfreezing temperatures tonight, but, at Dallas Life Foundation, for example, you have five free nights until you have to pay, and he’s saving his money until he really needs it (! the current temperature is around 30 degrees!) because all the homeless are having to buy their food now since the Second Chance Cafe is unable to serve them meals due to lack of access to the Bridge campus.

 

When you add to that reports of theft and other problems within some of the shelters and you understand why there are, once again, hundreds of people hiding wherever they can and sleeping outdoors.

 

~~  The primary population this policy change has impacted negatively is the “chronically homeless,” the exact population the Bridge was to target when it opened.


~~  A homeless man was seriously burned last week trying to stay warm in a parking garage stairwell in downtown Dallas.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/121308dnmetgarage.561b9995.html

 

~~  When I was at the Bridge campus on November 30, the last night that sleeping was allowed on the courtyard, and I spoke with a number of women sleeping there about where they’d sleep the next night.  ”We have no idea,” they told me.  All of these women were on their own, without the protection of male partners.  I don’t know whether you know what women alone face living on the street, but it is not a pretty picture.    

 

~~  I personally know one pregnant woman who is on the street in this weather, and I would surmise from past experience that there are more.

 

What I Believe to be the Case


~~While the stated reason the Bridge has closed its gates to those without Bridge Identification because of issues with the Fire Marshall, it has been shown to be the case in the past that temporary compromises on these sorts of issues can be reached within the city for the greater good of the affected population, where there is a constructive plan and the public and political will to do so.  

 

~~ While rumors persist among and from my homeless friends that two people have died sleeping outdoors in this weather, there has been no confirmation of this.  However, what is being predicted by homeless people and service providers alike is that, before winter is out, there will be casualties of this current situation.  We have to do all in our power to prevent this happening.

 

What Can Be Done

 

I am certain this problem can be solved quickly, and it must be.   Here are some suggestions for what can be done.  I welcome others in the comments section.  It is not an exaggeration to say that people’s lives are at stake.

 

For this winter, I respectfully request that we:

~~Effective immediately, reopen the Bridge campus during meal hours to anyone who needs a meal.  This has been the practice since the opening in May.

~~ Reopen the Bridge campus for sleeping for anyone who is nonviolent, and especially for women, and use the police manpower that is currently being used for sweeps of the homeless to keep order there if necessary.  This way, people can at least be safe. Those who have previously been banned for violent or predatory behavior should remain so.

~~  For warmth, large outdoor heaters could be set up and a large tent with side flaps for temporary protection could be provided — infinitely better than sleeping in the open on the concrete.

~~  The Fire Marshall could be asked to make special provision for the winter for an expanded number of people to be allowed at the Bridge until Spring 2009.  The city or the Bridge should provide funding for a Fire Marshall to be on duty at all times to insure public safety for the numbers of individuals that need to be sheltered for the winter.

~~  These policies should be in place every day until a date to be determined in the Spring, 2009, not just for subfreezing weather.

~~  Even with the cost of extra policing and fire prevention, the costs to the city are likely to be considerably less that the current cost of police sweeps of the homeless downtown and of providing for them through emergency services, (ambulances, hospitals, jails, emergency mental health services, crisis intervention, policing), as we are now back to doing, statistically proven to be by far THE MOST EXPENSIVE way to deal with homelessness, humanitarian concerns aside.

~~  Alternatively, or in addition, we could consider using one of the abandoned buildings downtown as temporary shelter, complete with Porta-Potties, and use Downtown Safety Patrol or Dallas Police to keep order there.  Guests there could eat and use other services (bathrooms, laundry, storage) at the Bridge, as they were doing before December 1.

~~  Being a ‘Can-Do’ city, I know that we can come up with the Code and Zoning permits we need to make these solutions possible if we feel they would be successful and effective.

 

In Conclusion

 

With the publicity around the Dallas International Street Church regarding its becoming a refuge for the homeless when they were turned away from the Bridge and other shelters  (See “Miracle on Second Avenue”)  I don’t have to tell you that there is unhappy irony in a tiny, poor, South-Dallas church trumping a $21 million state-of the art homeless assistance center in its care of the homeless population.

http://www.wfaa.com/video/?z=y&nvid=312288

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/121308dnmetchurchfix.38b6e7d.html

 

The homeless population is the responsibility of the Bridge now, and the staff there are being paid well, in a state-of-the-art facility, to handle these issues.  It is failing to live up to that responsibility at this time.  With our tax dollars supporting the Bridge, we as taxpayers are entitled to transparency and accountability, not just an effective public relations campaign.

 

It would be tragic if the promising start made by the Bridge towards a compassionate and successful resolution to the homeless problem in Dallas up until now were at this point seriously derailed by a policy that is harming in a critical way the population it is supposed to be helping.

 

KS

Link:  http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2008/dec/16/bridge-we-built-it-they-came-now-what/

 

Miracle on Second Avenue December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

 

Miracle on Second Avenue

 

Sometimes, through a benevolent combination of circumstances, you get the privilege of walking straight into the heart of Love, and tonight, at the invitation of my friend David Timothy, AKA SoupMan, I got to do that.

 

For months David had been inviting me to visit the Dallas International Street Church with him, but I hadn’t gotten around to it.  Then the story broke today about this tiny, poor, South-Dallas church sheltering homeless people in the hundreds who had been unable to get into the Bridge and other shelters in downtown Dallas.  When I had dropped by the SoupMobile this afternoon to pick up some brochures and chat with David and had learned he was going to the Street Church tonight to deliver some crates of canned food, I jumped at the chance to go with him.

 

All day rumors had been flying about the status of people being allowed to sleep inside the Street Church for tonight (Thursday).  The previous night the Fire Marshall had shut them down for code violations — the church is housed in a very old building south of Fair Park — and for having too many people inside sleeping on the pews, on the floor, anywhere there was a square inch, so that they would not have to sleep outdoors in the subfreezing weather.  The Dallas International Street Church had become the last refuge of many of the Dallas homeless population now that the Bridge had found it necessary to revise its open-door policy to coincide, unfortunately, with cold weather.  The timing of the implementation of this policy change with the advent of subfreezing weather was abysmal, and was resulting in extremely difficult circumstances whose lives are already quite challenging.

 

http://www.wfaa.com/video/?z=y&nvid=312288


First we’d heard the Fire Department would have a representative stay in the church tonight to keep an eye on things and allow the homeless to shelter there.  Then we’d heard that was a no-go, and that a large open-sided tent the congregation owns — complete with a with an outdoor heater — was to be set up to shelter the homeless behind the church  — not exactly snugly warm, but better than sleeping in the open or on the concrete.

 

We pulled up into the church’s parking lot in the SoupMobile van to unload the food, and I noticed an official City of Dallas vehicle parked outside.  “I think the Fire Marshall is here,” I told David.  In the next moment, a woman came running up to us waving her arms and either laughing or crying — I couldn’t tell which.  It was ‘Queen,’ the de facto shelter director, and she was calling out, “Oh, thank God you’re here.  Did you bring any food?  You’re not going to believe what’s happened!”  The city had relented, it turned out, and was going to allow the homeless to sleep inside after all, with a Fire Marshall present all night to oversee things.  “Look, look, there they come!”  She pointed to a group of people walking along the sidewalk toward the door of the church.  “They’ve walked all the way from downtown!  We were not allowed to go downtown and pick them up in busses [which had been happening earlier in the week], but, if they can walk to here, they can come inside.  We made the rounds of the shelters earlier.  People have to have money and ID’s to get in, but, anyway, the shelters were all full.”

 

Several men came out of the church to unload the van, and we all went inside.  A church service was in progress, loud, spirited, with a gospel band.  Queen took me by the hand and led me through the pews of people, introducing me as we went along.  We sat down in the second row, and, suddenly, both of us began to cry.  She put her arm around me, this sister that I’d never met before tonight, and I leaned my head against her shoulder.  The frustration, the anger, the bewilderment, the stress that this week had brought to everyone who loves and works with Dallas’ homeless people — it poured out of us both to the sound of the searing gospel music as we searched our pockets for Kleenex and looked at each other without the necessity of explaining anything.

 

The sermon, given by a young, dynamic preacher, was pure, was strong, was speaking truth to power without condemning anyone.  “Seven months ago,” he said, “I was an addict, was homeless, hadn’t had a bath, was walking up and down Second Avenue, right out here.”  He pointed toward the front of the church.  Speaking eloquently about letting yourself be willing to shine, he said, “The changes that have happened to me in the past few months should by all rights have taken years.”

 

As the service continued, David took me for a tour of the building.  To say that Pastor Karen Dudley operates the International Street Church on a shoestring is a mild understatement [http://www.kdministries.org/staff.php].  When dinner was served in the kitchen, the plates of the first shift of ten or so people had to be washed before the next round could be fed!   Looking on, David said to me, “Seems just a little bit like the stretching required in the feeding of the loaves and fishes, doesn’t it?”  We laughed.  “Hey,” he commented, “this is a pretty good-looking meal they’re serving tonight, mashed potatoes and meat.  Often they don’t have hot food here at night.  Louis,” he asked the cook, “where did this food come from?”  “From you, SoupMan!” Louis said, “You brought it yesterday, and it’s been in the freezer since then.”  David had forgotten he’d ‘paid it forward’ with some food sent to the SoupMobile by Bakers Ribs!  It was pretty funny.

 

Near us in the kitchen, I noticed a quiet, unobtrusive young man sitting by the wall, observing, and saw that he wore a badge.  I walked over and introduced myself, asking, “Are you with the City?”  “Yes,” he said cordially, “My name is Anthony _____.  I’m the Fire Marshall.”  We expressed our gratitude to him for being there and our happiness that a compromise had been worked out with the city.  He was polite and kind, with a low-key demeanor and good people skills in evidence.

 

Twenty-six code violations were found the previous night when the city had shut the shelter down, and we looked at some of them.  It’s a very old building, and some fix up is in order, to be sure.  The contractor who had graciously volunteered his services to make the repairs and get the building up to code after the story of the shutdown aired on WFAA, Channel 8, is due to arrive at 9 A.M. tomorrow morning (Friday) to get started.

 

We went outside to talk to some people, and Queen came out.  “Guess what?  You’ll never believe it.  That was the Dallas Morning News on the phone just now.  Two people have called in and are going to pay for hotel rooms for a few dozen people tonight!  We’re signing them up right now!”  There were ‘woohoos’ and high-fives all around.  When a [shelter] door closes, sometimes more than one window miraculously opens.

 

By this time, the church service had ended.  We went back in the building for one last look around and noticed a clean-cut, white-shirted man standing across the room with Anthony.  When we approached him, we could read “K. Sipes, Fire Chief” embroidered on his shirt.  It was now 9:40 P.M., and, long day notwithstanding, Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Sipes himself was on the premises to check out how things were going.  We met him, talked to him for a while.  “This compromise seems like a win-win for the homeless and the city,” David said.  “We don’t want people to be out in the cold in this weather,” the Chief told us.

 

After a dispiriting week, it was a very uplifting couple of hours, amid the people who are the poorest of the poor, the most outcast of the outcast.  The gratitude, the love, the truth, the peace that is in that place and among those people does indeed pass all understanding.

 

KS

 

P.S.  Much appreciation to the good people at Channel 8 News, WFAA, for their coverage of this issue.