Thursday, December 27, 2012

Death back of a church

Matt Peterson reports the inevitable in a story posted to the Dallas Morning News "Scoop Blog" on Wednesday morning.  A day after the inspirational report regarding 500 homeless persons spending the night at the new Omni Hotel and receiving first class treatment, one of our not-so-fortunate neighbors froze to death in an ally behind an East Dallas Church building located in my neighborhood. 
Here's Peterson's report: 
A homeless man was found “frozen behind a church” in Old East Dallas this morning, according to a police report.
The man, who was in his 60s, apparently died overnight and was found about 8 a.m. outside Emanuel Lutheran Church in the 4300 block of San Jacinto Street.
“We’re very, very saddened by the situation,” said Julio Cruz-Natal, the church’s pastor. He said the man may have been there to get a meal from the church’s food pantry, but he was not familiar to anyone there.
Authorities have yet to identify the victim, and his cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner’s office. There were no obvious signs of trauma.
But with overnight temperatures dropping into the 20s and wind chills in the single digits, it was a dangerous night to spend in the elements.
Cruz-Natal said the brutal cold overnight may have left the man with few alternatives.
“Most of the shelters were at capacity, and I wonder if that’s what happened last night,” he said.
Some may ask, "How does such a thing happen in Dallas, Texas?" 
I say, "Why the surprise?" 
Our community response to the issues associated with chronic homelessness, especially among the disabled and the young, remains inadequate at best. 
The emergency shelters were likely very crowded last night.  But shelters do not provide any real answer to the problem.  Housing is the best and only answer.  Permanent housing with robust, high-touch, high-care support services.  As a community we need to partner with the shelter providers to empty their beds as we place these very special neighbors into real housing. 
The time has come for "over-investment" to compensate for the head start this challenge has on us.  I hope, if you live in Dallas, you'll call, email and write your city council member and Mayor Mike Rawlings.  Let them know that you are ready to join the fight and that it is time to take the entire effort to the next level.  I intend to volunteer to my council representative, Pauline Medrano, that I'm ready to pay into a special fund to address this life and death issue.  Call it a levy of compassion, call it a tax, call it what you will.  The time has come to act and to act differently and much more aggressively. 
God have mercy on us.
This just in from The Dallas Morning News on my doorstep:  Authorities found the body of another Dallas neighbor, a woman who has been identfied, near the Dallas Convention Center.  It appears that this person also froze to death a short distance from the luxurious Omni Hotel.