Last Thursday, a group of six from the Table headed out out to participate in the Homeless Census, a now annual event designed to give both government and community organizations the information they need to serve the homeless population in the DFW area. Four of us went to Dallas Life to interview some of the residents there, while the others went with a police officer to various camps around the neighborhood. The interviews were conversational but basically found out how long a person has been homeless, what benefits are they receiving, and what kinds of services they might still need. It was moving and fascinating to hear their stories. There were 18 year olds, single moms with kids, people with college degrees, folks with histories of abuse, ex-offenders, and more. It was near impossible to categorize them. They were just people, like you and I.
As a community, we will be looking for more possibilities in the future to connect with, learn from, and serve our neighbors like them. I hope you might join us.
Here are some more quotes from a few of our people that went and participated:
After having been to Honduras and now seeing the conditions of our homeless in Dallas, it was like being back in a third world country last night – Greg
It was amazing to find that some homeless choose this lifestyle because they prefer it to any other. I would like to learn how to help those people. – Jules
A homeless man was asked why he did like The Bridge. He said,”too many people, I’m a loner…..I just want to live out here and be left alone.”
From Beth -
I was put at the Dallas Life Foundation, a shelter for families and singles. I have worked at the Bridge many times, but this was one of my first experiences one-on-one with people experiencing homelessness. The FIRST thing I realized is that I didn’t like the word “homeless”. It sounds so final, like they are homeless forever. I prefer to use “people experiencing homelessness”. This to me means hopefully a transition, a place to stay until they can get the help they need to get on their feet. I have heard and believe that almost half of people experiencing homelessness are mentally ill. This makes it even harder for them to receive services – many don’t like being closed up and are basically invisible to the general public.
I talked to families with children. I wondered, how do you explain this to your kids? They just want their kids and to not worry about things like where they live or whether they have a lunch to take to school or dinner in the evening. I talked to people with Master’s degrees, one with two master’s degrees. They had run on hard times, lost their job, then their car, and as a result with no savings, ended up experiencing homelessness. I talked one lady who receives $16.00 in food stamps a MONTH. How ludicrous. But the main service I heard people say they need and was nowhere on the form for the census is bus passes. Most of these people want jobs and it is hard from downtown to get anywhere except on the bus, and with no money, no bus pass.
I tried to carry on my survey with a conversation. I shook their hand when they sat down. I tried to engage with them. Sometimes it was challenging, but so rewarding and an honor to meet these people and they taught me so much.
You can find out more about the Homeless Census at the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance website.