Every once in a while, the journalism gods come together to present a news lineup that makes newspapers like ours look extra organized, even prescient. Aug. 22 was one of those days.
The news that day led to a Friday front page that seemingly paired a centerpiece package on Our Daily Bread celebrating its millionth meal with an above-the-fold rail story on the Denton County Transit Authority adding bus service to the homeless. The timing and packaging of the two news items was coincidental; the message they together conveyed was anything but.
In the early afternoon, Our Daily Bread served the 1 millionth meal in the community soup kitchen’s 19-year history, presenting a hot dog and hamburger platter, with pie and sides, to Wayne Brock. To get to the milestone, the soup kitchen has served upwards of 250 people a day, no questions asked, six days a week.
It’s a mission whose urgency is only going to grow along with the size of our community. Right now, one out of five people in Denton County don’t know where their next meal will come from. As startling as that statistic is, imagine how much worse it would be without the selfless contributions of Our Daily Bread and its team of volunteers.
Present at the lunchtime celebration at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church’s dining hall was Denton Mayor Chris Watts, who punctuated just how crucial Our Daily Bread has been in meeting the needs of our most needy. Over the course of the soup kitchen’s 19 years of operation, it also has delivered 40,000 social services, facilitated over 14,000 referrals to outside agencies, garnering the support of 35 volunteers a day — for a whopping 30,000 volunteer hours a year.
Later in the evening of the same day, the Board of Directors for DCTA met to discuss the budget for its upcoming fiscal year. Among the items discussed was a proposal from the city of Denton to shuttle people from the night shelter at the Monsignor King Outreach Center to Our Daily Bread.
The buses would begin running in January during off-peak travel times, with little impact on DCTA’s expenses. Instead of taking two buses back to the bus yard in the midmorning, they instead would run two short trips between Monsignor King and Our Daily Bread.
Sounds like an easy decision to make, right? With little to no extra cost, the city could improve the lives of hundreds of our neediest residents by humanely transporting them from the location set aside for them to sleep to the location providing food and additional assistance.
But judging by some of the comments posted to the online version of that article and on Facebook, nothing is ever easy. “I have an idea. Take the homeless from the shelter to Texas workforce,” said one. “How about a bus from the homeless shelter to the work corner?” said another.
Never mind the inane suggestion that any of us, the commenters included, could accomplish a job well done on an empty stomach — or that the children who have to sleep at Monsignor King could keep up with their studies while hungry.
No, what both of these stories demonstrate is that one, the homelessness dilemma is one we will continue to wrestle with as our population explodes along with the increased prospects that make our community so popular; and two, we must continue to do things the right way — the humane way — in pursuing solutions. Just as it was right to close the lobby of the Denton Police Department at night and force the homeless to go elsewhere, it is also right to involve city-funded agencies such as DCTA and community-driven efforts such as Our Daily Bread as part of our response.
It has often been said that it takes a village to raise a child. In regard to the homeless, it takes a caring community such as ours.
Should you wish to help, you can contact Our Daily Bread at 940-566-1308 or go to their website, www.ourdailybreaddenton.org, for information on volunteering and donations needed.