Going by press reports, Texas is a happening place when it comes to dealing with the growing problem of people experiencing homelessness. Quite a lot of events went on there during the recent Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Other efforts and institutions are ongoing, although, of course, the Week is a special time.
The city of Dallas estimates that about 6,000 people experiencing homelessness live within its borders. The Bridge has fed 900 people at a kickoff breakfast for Help the Homeless Week. The keynote speaker was Chris Gardner, who wrote the novel, The Pursuit of Happyness, that became a movie. Mike Rawlings, long known as the city’s “homeless czar,” was honored for his five years’ service in the volunteer position.
Reporter Kim Horner tells us,
Mayor Tom Leppert said at the event that the homeless alliance has helped reduce chronic homelessness in Dallas by 57 percent and saved government agencies millions by caring for people who otherwise would go to more costly institutions, such as jail.
The facility called The Bridge, owned by the city and operated by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, offers meals, shelter, and a wide variety of services including counseling. Founded only two years ago, it was designed to deal with 600 clients a day, but now serves 1,400. (Not sure how that squares up with the mayor’s statement about having reduced chronic homelessness by 57%.)
One thing is for sure, The Bridge is looking at $200,000 worth of red ink this year if its current fundraising efforts are not successful. In this area, as in many others, government funding is drying up, and private donations are going to make all the difference.
It’s kind of an ironic name, in a way, because one of the stereotypes of homelessness is that people live under bridges and freeway overpasses. And indeed, some do. But this is a whole different thing. Now it’s time to get up on the bridge and make the crossing from one way of life to another. The Bridge is known as “Dallas’ Way Back Home,” a bridge that, for many people, through the years, has spanned the gap between hopelessness and a future.
We mentioned The Bridge before, in relation to the Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze and his endearing way of poking fun at Dallasites who don’t like the shelter. We have all heard of the NIMBY phenomenon, where residents of a town agree that some kind of place has to exist to help people experiencing homelessness — only the location of this place should be Not In My Back Yard.
Well, part of Schutze’s article tells about an opposite case, which started out as a NIMBY problem, and then turned around. The journalist relates a conversation he had with Dan Millet, who owns a printing company in the downtown neighborhood of The Bridge, and it’s beautiful. He tells it so well it would be a shame to steal his thunder. So please just go read it, and feel better all day!
Source: “Official says The Bridge in Dallas needs donations to cover shortfall,” The Dallas Morning News, 11/05/10
Source: “We’ve Banned Their Shopping Carts… ,” Dallas Observer, 09/02/10
Image by williamedia, used under its Creative Commons license.