It took him a year to talk to me. Sometimes, he'd grunt in acknowledgment of my presence, but even that was once in a blue moon. His best friend, Mr. B., was one of the first in the neighborhood to embrace me. They sat together every day, on paint pails or old folding chairs in front of an abandoned white building. To get to their spot, I had to jump across a large ditch; Mr. B always said he wished we could trade legs so he could do that, too.
One week after Thanksgiving, we had a potluck dinner at Bobby's new apartment. Bobby is a friend who used to live on the streets and about 6 months ago got placed in an apartment in Oak Cliff. It was my first time to visit Bobby since he has been there, and for that matter, it was my first time visiting a homeless friend who was no longer homeless! Needless to say, I had NO idea what to expect.
Three months ago, Roland, a former resident of Tent City, left the streets and moved into his own apartment.
Since then, he has been working different jobs through a day labor office to make ends meet. In his free time, he gives back to his community by creating an outdoor play area made entirely of giant sunflowers.
We met Randy about a month ago. Randy sits with our friend Rowdy. Rowdy doesn’t give out friendship too easily, so we are certain Randy is a good guy.
Not only that, but Randy has a spirit about him that is kind and gentle. We have been drawn to him since we first met him. As we talked to him last week, he shared part of his story with us, and we want to share it with you (with his permission!) ...
You were all a part of the service today. We got to tell our community in South Dallas that they have a community not physically present that loves them. We told them that your care is why we were able to share Williams Chicken in Julie's honor.
The first time I met Julie, she cussed me out. Our friend Steve at Luke's Locker had given us a bag of tennis shoes to pass out on the streets. I wouldn't let Julie take a bag full of them, and she got mad. Next thing I knew, she had grabbed the bag of shoes and taken off down the street.
Edward lived and worked in a residential care home. He spent his days taking care of the elderly and people with disabilities. It's a physically demanding job-- we're talking getting full-grown humans in and out of the shower and helping them take care of business. As you can imagine, these duties (no pun intended) require a kind, patient, and caring person.
A person like Edward.
About a year ago, Edward got sick and was unable to keep up with the physical demands of his job. So he lost it. And because his job was also his home, he lost that, too. That's how Edward found himself homeless.
She's a mama. A mama who was badly beaten by her soon-to-be ex husband. A mama who was brave enough to leave, brave enough to risk, to get help.
Now, she lives at a shelter with her babies. She is their only caretaker; no babysitters are allowed to the shelter to help her. For her safety and the safety of her children, no one can know where they are living. (We cannot even share her real name or the number of children she has.)
On Saturday, December 13 we headed to South Dallas to hand out the brand new coats that so many of you helped purchase. I don't if there are any America's Next Top Model fans reading this, but Tyra would be proud of so many great photos we got from that day.
Eva and her husband Allen have been in my life for an eternity. On the streets that translates to about eight months.
There are a lot of things I love about Eva, but probably right at the top is that she is a loving grandmother AND she's tatted up -- two things I previously thought to be mutually exclusive.
The truth is, Eva is a dear and true friend. She has been a fixture in our Bible Study and also in our little neighborhood. Eva's "clean" -- meaning she doesn't drink or do drugs. My child knows her; together, Eva and I have watched my baby change into a little girl.
UPDATE: To see our Street-Side Salon video, click here! AND check out our Year-End video here.
Last Saturday's Street-Side Salon was one of the most special days we've had in South Dallas. That's why we're putting together a video to give a good picture of the day! Until then, we wanted to share some pictures from our morning. Here they are!
On Saturday, November 8, we are holding our next community gathering in South Dallas. After trash pick-up, we asked the homeless community what other needs they have. Their immediate response was, "We need haircuts!"
Of course! It was something we would have never thought about, but it makes so much sense. It is such a basic human need, and one that I take for granted.
So in partnership with some local hairstylists, we are hosting our first "Street-Side Salon" on November 8.
Recently, I have encountered a different kind of language barrier. Jerry, pictured above, has never had the ability to hear. Maybe to the trained ear, his speech and language would pose no barrier. However, his chronic homelessness and inability to gain access to a shelter are proof that a hearing impairment can complicate life on the streets.
For a person without a disability, getting out of homelessness is difficult. For a homeless person with a disability, everything -- from getting an I.D., to finding work, to purchasing a bus pass -- is exacerbated. Adding something in like deafness or paralyzation (which we encounter every single week) complicates overcoming homelessness tenfold.
Zoila* is a beautiful little lady with kind eyes and a sweet smile. She was new to the shelter just about six weeks ago now. Since the first day I met her she has never missed our little Thursday morning Bible study.
What I first noticed about Allen when he started attending the Bible study two months ago was only that I had never seen a homeless person as unclean as he was. My friend Nancy, who came to the Bible study the second week Allen attended, didn't seem to notice the uncleanliness, and she put me to shame, placing her arm around his shoulder, just lovingly caring for him all morning.
Last Thursday felt like a deluge of people. Perhaps the weather getting nicer means more people hang around. Also, we have moved our "Corner" time down the block a little ways, as people were having to cross a four-lane road and not always paying great attention to the cars whizzing by. We are closer to the shelter now, so it seems more people gather and stay gathered than when we were down the block.
Last Thursday on the Corner brought familiar faces and unfamiliar, strengthened old relationships and forged new ones.
Bridging North Dallas & South Dallas is a primary goal of my work on the Corner, in South Dallas, and with the homeless. I believe that the more we interact and build relationships, the stronger we become. Truly, each side has something unique to offer the other!
Thanks to a very generous donor, Edward got his books today! The woman who "met the need" would like to remain anonymous, but she gave me permission to tell how she found out about Edward's need.
She wanted to give back, and decided to Google for ways to do that in Dallas. She randomly came across Edward's story, was touched by it, and reached out to me. Simple as that! What a kind, generous heart! Thank you, anonymous person!!!
How does one cope with the sadness present on the streets?
On what should have been a bright and sunny day for me—and was in fact a bright and sunny day outside—I felt heavy-hearted.
Glorious things of Thee are spoken.
It was different on the street last week with lots of “normal” people around (many wonderful volunteers came to the Corner last week). I use the term normal because we really do think of ourselves as normal and them—homeless people—as abnormal.