The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

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

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

Available On a Street Corner Near You! October 1, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

 

Available On a Street Corner Near You!

 

Today the October, 2009, issue of StreetZine was put into the hands of licensed street vendors downtown and around the city.  As usual, StreetZine is chock-full of fascinating articles and tidbits, and this month you will also find an important article by Pat Spradley, Editor, on the pending court case against the City of Dallas, defending the rights of groups who wish to feed people on the streets of downtown who are hungry and homeless.  [http://thestewpot.org/streetzine.asp]

 

There is also a recent interview I did with The Gardeners from the Dallas International Street Church ministry’s The Garden: South Dallas, Texas.  In it, you will get to know some of them personally and see what gardening organically has come to mean to their lives.  Included are lovely pictures by Mandy Mulliez of a few of The Gardeners and of the Fall Garden at the DISC.

 

Special kudos and big appreciation to Pastor Karen Dudley, Founder and Senior Pastor of the DISC, not only for her soon-to-be twelve years of dedication and commitment to helping people salvage their lives from the ravages of street living, but also for continuing to pay the water bill on The Garden throughout this long hot summer, when it appeared as if the total yield was going to be somewhere around a single cherry tomato and ten green beans!  [www.kdministries.org]

 

Here are some quotes from the interview:

 

ks:  Noting that many of the people in the Dallas International Street Church have experienced homelessness in the past, do you think that having a Garden has any special meaning for people that have been or are homeless?  Does having experienced homelessness give people a special appreciation for having a place to grow their own food?

Luis:  Yes.  Do you remember the first time we planted and we used those community service men and women from the City of Dallas community court program?  You know, last week, two of the guys who did community service came back just to see the beds they had helped build!

ks:  How did that happen?

Luis:  They just came!  I was out at The Garden in the morning, and I saw them, and one of them said, “I just came to see my garden bed,” and I said, “Cool!  Come on!”  He was surprised, he said “Wow!  This is OURS?”  I said, ‘Yea, look!’  It was great.  

He was telling me about when he was in jail and stuff like that and when he got out, and The Stewpot brought them over here to do their community service.  And he was really surprised at how The Garden grew.  He said, “I didn’t think it was going to grow!”  And I said, “Yea, but look at it now!”  I mean, it’s our pride and joy.

ks:  What keeps you motivated to continue working in The Garden?

Raymond:  Getting the fruit from the plants!  Getting the tomatoes…

Luis: Yea, that stuff.  [Pause]  The best and the most important thing is to be WANTED, to be needed by something that — it grows.  Cause it’s not just the plants that are growing, but US, TOO.

 

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the October StreetZine from a licensed street vendor (or at The Stewpot, 408 Park Avenue, Dallas, TX 75201) and see the beautiful  garden pictures, as well as the expanded interview.  Selling StreetZine provides a sustainable living for many of these men and women and is helping them get off the street and regain their independence.


Karen Shafer

 

For Mandy Mulliez’ slideshow of The Garden, see:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=1bf3gjjt.36pvmvjl&x=0&y=-4ezj3m&localeid=en_US


For background on The Garden: South Dallas, see:

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

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/the-garden-raising-day-may-2-2009/

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/the-garden-is-growing-2/


 

Standing in a Circle August 28, 2009

 

Friday, August 28, 2009

 

Standing in a Circle

 

Imagine that each of us who cares about and works to solve the problem of long-term, street-dwelling homelessness in Dallas is standing in a circle.  In the center of the circle is the problem — one that is enormous and complex:  it is a given that each of us sees it and its solutions from a different perspective because of the position in the circle which we stand.

 

Some of us sit at desks inside nonprofits and make policy.  Maybe we ‘make the rounds’ to see how things are ‘on the ground’ within our organization, or maybe we don’t.  This alone will help determine our perspective. Those who do make the rounds and who attempt to be the link between the employees on the ground, the homeless guests, those who sit upstairs making policy, and the public have a particularly hard job.

 

Others inside nonprofits work closely with the homeless population in a direct way, talking to them, touching them.  Some of us befriend them; others think we should keep our distance.  Friendship is vital to those on the street who have nothing: so are boundaries.  Which looks more vital depends on where we stand.

 

Some of us take our homeless friends into our churches and homes for meals and prayers when no one else wants them.  Others of us go out on the street and offer hungry people food and drink people.  All of it matters.

 

Some of us go out, from time to time, and talk to people where they live in cardboard boxes under freeway overpasses, or where they sleep, as best they can, out of sight in the city.  This is one of the things I occasionally do (there are others who do much, much more.)  I listen to and try to understand their problems and struggles; I bring them clean, dry clothing;  I drive them to the doctor.  I go home and research what services are available to help them, and I share the possible solutions with my friends under the bridge, offering to aid them in getting through the system. Sometimes I plead with them to get help a particular kind help if I think it’s vital.  But they are human beings and are free to choose what is best for them.

 

For one of my friends, her place ‘in the circle’ this week was at the gates of a highly visible and well-funded nonprofit serving the homeless population in Dallas.  There, she observed and documented abusive language by guards directed towards homeless people trying to gain admittance to the property.  Not every guard.  Not every homeless person.  But any is too many.  This verbal abuse by some employees has been a common and persistant practice since this facility opened.  Why is it still happening, my friend wants to know?  She shared this information with the staff of the nonprofit itself and with others in the service community.

 

Others ‘in the circle’ criticized how and why she did what she did.  Why didn’t she do it differently?  Better still, why didn’t she ask them how they wanted her to do it?  The answer is that she stands at her own place in the circle, and it’s a place very few have the ability or fortitude to stand.  She is one of the very few people who successfully brave the often thankless role of ‘linking person’ between the ‘powers that be’ regarding homelessness in Dallas and the extremely vulnerable people on the street.  I don’t know anyone who could do what she does.  I most certainly could not.

 

How things look when I stand with my friends who are living under the freeway overpass is quite different from how things look sitting in an office making policy that determines much of how they live, but that does not mean my view is more right or that it’s better.  It simply means that I have information — in my mind, in my heart, in my soul, in my experience — that someone who has not been there doesn’t have.  

 

It is equally true that someone sitting in an office in a nonprofit agency or at City Hall may have a great deal of information that I don’t have — an overview, or an awareness of the scope of certain problems.  From this, perhaps they design a policy that seems good and even vital, but that policy may look untenable from where I stand.

 

I try to carry forward with me as I go along my path the assumption of good will from everyone in the circle toward our friends on the street.  It is easy to become cynical as I listen to expert public relations and know full well that what happens in practice is quite different from how it seems in a sound byte, and that how it sounds is going to have a great deal more impact on public policy and opinion than how it is — because the people experiencing the results of policy generally don’t have a voice.

 

KS

 

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/


 

Reconnecting to ‘The Wild’ July 8, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2008

 

Reconnecting to ‘The Wild’

 

This past Fourth of July weekend, one of my daughters, Rose, and granddaughter, Cora, and I went to Glen Rose, Texas to stay a few days, do the ‘Dino’ thing (this granddaughter is six and admires T Rex as much as any six-year-old), and visit Fossil Rim Wildlife Ranch.  [http://www.fossilrim.org/]

 

I’d been to Fossil Rim with my older daughter’s elementary-school class as a Room Mother mannnnnnny years ago for the Scenic Wildlife Drive, accompanied by twenty-five 6-to-9-year olds, and remembered feeding the ostriches through the car window and how it felt like the force of a thunderbolt hitting your hand when they took the food pellet from you.  It was great fun to drive through the 1700 acres, seeing the animals wild and free while we remained safely in our ‘car cage.’

 

This past weekend’s drive through the park was more enjoyable than any of us had imagined.  Cora is a ‘nature fanatic’ — for example, she’s caught and released around fifty snakes and lizards this spring and summer — and her excitement at hand-feeding the endangered Addax, European Red and Fallow Deer, Aoudads and other species through the car windows is easy to imagine.  

 

These days, visitors are warned against feeding the ostriches, but the shrieks and screams all around inside our ‘car cage’ as the aggressive big birds tried to insert their heads and necks through the windows was quite funny.  We got to touch the nose and flank of a Grant’s Zebra as he nuzzled our car door, but the big thrill of the trip was interacting with the giraffes, the only animal one is technically advised to hand feed these days at Fossil Rim because they have no teeth.

 

We’d been told by ranch staff that, if the giraffes were reticent about approaching us to be fed, we should pull our car over, turn off the engine and quietly wait.  “They like to figure out who’s serious about feeding them,” the ranger told us.  When we got to the giraffe area, they were indeed ‘doing their own thing,’ nibbling the tree tops, so we did as instructed, parking near them.

 

It took a few minutes, but soon we saw one of the magnificent giants approaching the rear of the car.  The three of us were giggling and whispering and trying to ‘be cool’ and not scare him away.  Elegantly, he glided slowly over to us and bent his towering head down to the back window, and Cora held out her hand with a feed pellet in it.  His long purple blue tongue gently swooped the pellet into his mouth.  To say that the child was ecstatic understates it.

 

One is strictly forbidden to leave one’s car at Fossil Rim, but we remembered that our car has a moon roof, so we opened it, and Cora stood up through it and continued feeding the enormous, exquisitely beautiful animal as he lowered his head to earth, petting his nose as she did so.  The giraffe was utterly gentle and peaceful, with the most polite entreaties for food we had encountered all day.

 

Cora sat on the top of the car with her legs still inside through the moon roof, and the giraffe nuzzled her ear and then nibbled at her ponytail!  She was overjoyed.  It was a moment none of us will ever forget.

 

We all three came away from Fossil Rim in a joyful state.  It is so important to connect with the natural world, and I often forget this living in the city.  What a gift these beautiful, inquisitive animals gave us.  We have an incalculable treasure just an hour and a half from Dallas.  After the weekend, I felt more restored and whole than I have in years.

 

This experience brought to mind what many of the Stewpot Community Court Volunteers and the Dallas International Street Church disciples said on the Garden-Raising Day at the Street Church on May 2, 2009.  There was something about being outdoors, close to Mother Earth, that helped us all relate and get along in a way that would not have been possible in a different setting.

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/the-garden-raising-day-may-2-2009/

 

We get disjointed, disconnected — or I do — and my life begins to feel compartmentalized.  But how healing it is to remember and to feel at a deep level that we are an integral part of a much greater picture than our daily concerns allow us to realize, even though those concerns may be of the utmost significance.  If we’re lucky and take the time, the ‘critters’ and the grandkids can help us find our way back to sanity.

 

KS