From KERA News:
“Good morning, hey guys…” Care Minister John Little says as he greets volunteers in the lobby of the Dallas-based ministry OurCalling.
On this recent Saturday morning, it wasn’t quite 9 o’clock and the temperature had already soared above 80 heading north of 100.
Little briefs his search and rescue team on the morning plan.
“We have what we call beat the heat kits. It’s basically a hat, sunglasses… But more importantly is the hydration part… So we have water, there’s cooling rags….”
Little leads these outreach efforts six days a week year-round. He and volunteers drive all over Dallas to help those struggling without shelter. John Little knows his territory and many of those living on the streets.
In East Dallas he drives up to two men huddled under a makeshift tent made from a torn tarp. Volunteers offer something cold to drink. John Archer, who goes by Snake, says outdoor survival here’s a lot harder under this excessive heat
“It’s horrible,” Archer says. “This morning I tried to panhandle a few dollars. Yes it’s hot. I do a lot of things, help to move camps and stuff like. It’s like exertion in heat is like ten times worse than in cold. You’ve got to stay hydrated. You’ve got to wake up drinking cold drinks.”
Snake guzzles the green Gatorade handed to him, His camp buddy, Dale Crawford, says brutal summers are as bad as brittle winters. He says he’s suffered frostbite on some toes.
“I think it’s about the same, you know?” Crawford says, finding both equally awful. “Winter time, if you’re not careful, and the same thing with summertime. The heat and the cold, I don’t like either one of them. Summer came this year with a vengeance. I mean it started early. I don’t do good in the heat and I don’t do good in extreme cold. When it gets cold I start to freak out.”
Wayne Walker, the pastor of OurCalling, says the mission behind the visit wasn’t just to offer homeless people some temporary relief from extreme heat. He wants his team to connect with these folks, like they lived next door.
“I would want to be cared for, I would want a cold drink of water,” Walker says, putting himself in the shoes of people OurCalling tries to help. “I would want someone to show up and help me exit homelessness. And so those things that we would want ourselves and we would want to do for our family are the things that we should be doing for our neighbors.”
Sometimes it works, but mostly those on the streets choose to stay on the streets.
Sharla, who didn’t want to be recorded, says almost everyone still out here has repeatedly resisted such a move.
She says most have been physically or emotionally abused, have a mental illness, or both. They manage the pain, she says, with illegal drugs. Some call that self- medication. Many out here, like Susan — who only offered a first name — have sought medical help.
“Psychologists, I said, okay, these are all my problems that I don’t know how to fix them,” Susan says. “You know I can break it down for you, everything that’s wrong, but I can’t fix that.”
So Susan stays out here. And then, not wanting to offend, says she’s hot as hell right now and she’s really ready to be left alone.