Lex in Dallas

Lex P. is a senior majoring in markets and culture. This summer she is interning at the Austin Street Center, in Dallas, which provides safe shelter for the homeless.

Farewell, New Hope Garden

Finishing up my last week here at Austin Street is bittersweet. I feel privileged to have met so many interesting people, from the dedicated employees, to the selfless volunteers, to the guests themselves.

People like Laura and Doris, who manage the front intake desk several days a week, and whose only response to those irate guests are warm smiles and helping hands.

Volunteers like Jessica, who has been volunteering at the shelter for years, and due to that dedication has swayed her employer into offering all of the employees a weekly “volunteer day” if they so wish.

Amazing employees like Monica, who went from being a guest here at Austin Street many years ago to getting her Masters degree, to now being in charge of one of our most important women’s programs.

I also had the chance to speak with many guests over the past few months and to hear some of their stories. Like that of Anthony, on and off the streets for years and told me that Austin Street is by far his preferred shelter simply because of the caring people who work and volunteer here.

Being able to give back to the local community this summer has helped bring me closer to its citizens (both homeless and not) that so often get overlooked and I’m incredibly grateful for that opportunity.”

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Shelter Scenes

I’m interning at Austin Street Center, in Dallas, the largest emergency homeless shelter here in Dallas. I’m in the advancement department helping to raise funds for the shelter. I have been involved in getting donations for upcoming silent auctions, the shelter’s marketing strategy for North Texas Giving Day in September, some foundation grant writing and whatever else they need.

Walking into the shelter today I thought to myself how easily a new experience can become routine, almost reflexive. I remember at first how surprising these new surroundings were, from the drive, to the neighborhood, to the street corner itself littered with hundreds of people huddling under sparse pockets of shade seeking any relief from the Texas summer sun. Just a few weeks ago all this was so eye-opening, a bit shocking and, if I’m being completely honest, a bit scary.

The past few weeks, as I sat in my make-shift office, I would occasionally glance out my window and watch as person after person lined up in the brutal heat to secure a place to sleep for the night. I realized that I was slowly becoming accustomed to this once uncomfortable sight of men and women living on the sidewalks and streets just a few feet away from me. Maybe it’s our innate human ability to adapt to our surroundings that allows us to become desensitized, and perhaps this is a reason why every city’s homeless issues never seem to get resolved, I thought. Day after day we see these problems, and eventually they just become another normal part of life over time.

When working at one of the largest emergency shelters in one of the largest U.S. cities, you tend not to go un-surprised for long, when you see a woman lying motionless on the sidewalk who quite possibly could be dead (she wasn’t, but she was transported to the hospital) or see hundreds of messages on the shelter’s social media accounts from spouses, siblings and parents and friends searching for loved ones, and pleading for any information, and knowing full well that because of privacy laws, and not knowing whether that person even wants to be found, we have to leave the pleas unanswered.

I accepted this internship so that I could help in any way that I could, and at the same time, hopefully gain some new insight into the lives of the less fortunate. If I take anything away after my time at the shelter is over, it will be that I need to remind myself to stay woke, be conscious and be engaged. By doing so I know I can accomplish great things.

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