The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

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

 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

 

Hot Off the Presses!

Kim Horner and Courtney Perry of the Dallas Morning News 

on Homelessness in Dallas

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

KS

 

 

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])


 

Trust March 9, 2009

 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Trust

 

When we have solved the problem of homelessness in Dallas, we will know it.  We will not need to ticket, arrest and harass homeless people for being on the streets of our town in order to get them out of sight.  They won’t need to be on the street, because they will have access to housing, social programs, and jobs which pay a living wage.  

 

Our programs serving the homeless will not be averse to criticism, because they will be good, fair, evenhanded and effective.  They will work, and, if they do not work, we will listen to those who ‘know how to,’ and we will change them. Therefore, they will be funded.  

 

Take the example of the Stewpot.  When the Stewpot puts out an appeal, people generously respond.  Why?  Because this is an organization which has credibility, viability, integrity and staying power.  Rules are rules, and the homeless clients they serve know this;  the rules are for everyone, and they don’t change every day.  A client may or may not believe that a rule is fair; nonetheless, trust is built with the organization because those living in the perilous and shifting sands that street life offers know what to expect at the Stewpot, day in and day out.  Donors have the confidence that their donations, in-kind and monetary, will be directed efficiently to the targeted population.  There is a strong, trusted, and experienced leader at the Stewpot [Rev. Bruce Buchanan], and there is accountability among the staff to him. 

 

Clarity.  Consistency.  Transparency.

 

Here is a conversation I had with an intelligent and well-educated ‘chronically homeless’ individual recently in response to my question, “Do you use the [homeless assistance center and shelter system]?”

 

“I tried it for a while, but I gave up.  If I want craziness, I can get it out here [on the street].  I don’t have to go there to get it.  They want me to give up whatever drugs I might want to use, but then they want to put me on their [prescription] drugs in order to sedate me into being a person who can fit into their way of doing things and be compliant.”

 

I am not an advocate of ‘recreational’ drugs — don’t use them or champion their legalization.  I think they are almost wholly destructive.  But this point of view makes sense from a certain perspective.

 

What is the element that is missing between this homeless individual and the organizations built to facilitate her or his getting off the street?  Trust.  I’m not sure I would trust the system much either if I were in his or her position, and I understand the viewpoint even from the privileged perspective of being a property owner and a taxpayer [although, as we are seeing, even these privileges are quite tenuous in uncertain times.] 

 

But when one is utterly powerless and living on the street, it is not likely that one will give up the little power and comfort one has in order to put oneself in the hands of authorities which are perceived to be unreliable, unpredictable and whimsical in their exercise of power, at best.  Not one of us would choose that, would we?  Is it a character flaw to choose independent living, rough as it is, over the perception of a dangerous surrender?  We have squandered an opportunity to win the trust of some chronically homeless individuals in recent months, and I hope it can be rebuilt.

 

“If I want craziness, I can get it out here.  I don’t have to go there to get it.”  A concise and eloquent statement.

 

When we have solved the problem of homelessness in Dallas, we will know it.  There won’t be hundreds to thousands of homeless individuals living in the woods, hiding from Dallas authorities.  We won’t have to dissemble, harass, prosecute, and hound people into shelters and treatment.  Our programs will be open to constructive criticism, and our responses to the same will be forthcoming, measured and rational.

 

As my friend, David Timothy, says of his organization, the SoupMobile:  “I don’t want us to just look good.  I want us to be good.”

 

That is a goal worth striving for, and it is the only one that will succeed.

 

http://www.thestewpot.org/

http://www.soupmobile.org/

 

Karen Shafer

 

Link on Pegasus News:  

http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2009/mar/10/dallas-homeless-organization-need-develop-trust/

Link on Dallas Homeless Network:

http://dallashomelessnetwork.blogspot.com/

 

Homeward Bound March 3, 2009

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

 

Homeward Bound

 

I just got back a couple of hours ago from going with my friend, Soupman (David Timothy), to visit our good friend, Samuel, who lives in a cardboard house.  Tonight, Samuel seemed discouraged.  The police come by every Thursday or Friday and ticket him for ‘sleeping in public’ or ‘littering’, even though there’s no trash around his house whatsoever —  he takes pride in keeping it tidy.  He can work the tickets off in community service, go to Community Court, but the bigger question here is “What is the point of the ticketing?”  Samuel and those in his situation have nowhere to go.

 

People are trying to survive, to work, to live, to get themselves out of the hole they’re in.  Is there any possible way in which constantly being ticketed and warranted and sometimes arrested furthers their efforts to lift themselves up?

 

We are a long, long way from having affordable housing for the 6000 + homeless people in Dallas (a conservative estimate — many think it’s almost double that number.)  We’re also a long way from having enough shelter beds for everyone, or from fulfilling the promise publically made when the Bridge was in the planning stages that it would accommodate the ‘shelter-resistant’ homeless by providing a safe place for them to camp within the homeless assistance center campus.

 

After visiting Samuel, we moved on to visit some other friends who live outdoors.  “How many people are hiding out around here?” I asked James.  “Around 2000,” he responded.  “What??”  I said, incredulous.  “That’s a conservative estimate,” he replied, and his neighbors around us agreed.  James is extremely intelligent:  college educated, ex-military, well-spoken.  I love talking to him.  He’s also reliable in the street sense, and I trust the information he gives me.

 

Earlier, I had sat on the bumper of the truck near Samuel’s house, and he’d knelt by my knee.  We talked for a long time while David did all the heavy lifting of giving out coats and blankets to people who showed up.  “I know I’ve been saying this for a long time,” he told me, “but I’m sick of this.  I want to get out of here.  One of these days you’re going to come down here to get me and say to me, ‘Samuel, let’s go,’ and I’ll just leave.’”  We looked at each other steadily through the darkness, as I scanned my mind for ‘housing first’ initiatives for which he would qualify and came up short.  “Where would we be going?”  I asked him.  I was really hoping he had an answer, because I don’t.  We just kept looking at each other for a long time, saying nothing.

 

Both Samuel and James would be good candidates for ‘housing first,’ as both are independent and have a strong work ethic but have lost faith with the current system in place to help them.

 

Samuel, David and I put our arms around each other before we left, and I felt honored to be chosen to say a prayer. As David and I climbed aboard the van, Samuel said something about heaven, and then he said something I’ll always remember:  “We’re not homeless;  we’re homeward bound.”

 

KS

 

Just Like Us February 26, 2009

Thursday, 2/26/09

 

Just Like Us

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Karen,

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

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

 

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

 

just

like

us.

 

 

KS

 

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.