Yesterday afternoon several of us served lunch to some of our neighbors at the Bridge, a new shelter that opened up in May for the chronically homeless in downtown Dallas. Click here for a few fast facts about the facility at the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance website, the organization that runs the Bridge. Click here for an article and video from Dallas Morning News.
We worked in conjunction with First Presbyterian Church’s ministry, The Stewpot, which serves three meals every day for the homeless at the Bridge’s cafeteria, Second Chance Café.
A few of us served our neighbors meals from the kitchen. Others of us filled/refilled water glasses for our neighbors at their tables.
It was a great experience — one we’ll probably begin doing regularly.
I was struck by the overwhelming number of people at the Bridge. The Café director told us the shelter was built for a capacity of 400, but sometimes hosted as many as 1,200. The facility has gotten so full that many people sleep in the courtyard area in the evenings.
Raj and Lauren, two Storyline volunteers, commented about the diversity of the people they served. Young, old, Black, White, Latino, male, female—people of all different kinds were present. Homelessness affects a wide range of people.
I’m also struck by the way the Bridge seems to corral the homeless into a corner of the downtown area (the facility is located at one of the southern most points). Other organizations, like our friends at Soup Mobile, are no longer allowed to serve food downtown. Is it a subtle (or not-so-subtle) attempt to make the homeless less visible to the wealthy professionals who work and live downtown?
I know the issues are much more complicated than I’m aware. I’m just raising questions as an outsider.
One thing is certain: the Bridge is just a beginning step of a much larger process. Given the significant overcrowding at the Bridge, it’s clear that much more help is needed to serve the poor and homeless in downtown (which makes me wonder why other organizations are being asked to leave).
I talked to a 22 year-old woman just before we left. She had been on the streets since she was sixteen. She’d gotten pregnant and then lost the child after birth. I could see desperation in her eyes. When I asked her how she was doing she shot straight with me: not good. She couldn’t find a place that gave away sanitary pads and so she was left to bleed all over herself. I could tell she was humiliated. (I know this story is uncomfortable to read — but so is the reality of the streets, to say the least.)
Yesterday afternoon I found myself thanking God for a cooled home and a comfortable bed, and praying for my neighbors like that young woman who were at that very moment sitting out in the sweltering heat.
You don’t walk away from these kinds of experiences the same person.
May justice flow through Dallas like a river.