In Focus

Homeless shelter narrowly escapes closure

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Tonight was supposed to be the last night of shelter for dozens of homeless Houstonians. After running out of money, the Bread of Life "After Dark" shelter was supposed to close Thursday. But they somehow cobbled together enough cash to stay open for a few months more.

If Houston's economy is, as we've been often told, the economic envy of the nation, this is a part of Houston that no one envies. A snapshot away from our shiny skyline are the unmistakable signs of the thousands of Houstonians who live on our streets.

Dana Hogan with Bread of Life said, "At any given time, you will have individuals just camped out either underneath the bridge, on the sidewalks, in this particular area."

It is a block away from the Bread of Life homeless program, where men and women line up to race in for one of a shrinking number of overnight spots. This isn't an easy spot to get.

Homeless man Jeff Griddine said, "It stays full. It's constantly full. It's full now."

In October, Bread of Life was sheltering 150 to 200 homeless men and women every night. When they ran out of federal stimulus funding that kept the program open in October, that number dropped to 50 and it was about to drop to zero.

"There was somewhat of a decision to end the program today," Hogan explained.

But Bread of Life and St. John's Methodist Church came up with cash to eke out another 60 days of shelter, and will take the time to aggressively raise private money. Public dollars for homeless services are tough to come by.

"It's not very optimistic," said Thao Costis of SEARCH Houston. "Homeless services are not a high priority."

Costis runs SEARCH, another Houston homeless aid organization. They, too, lost stimulus money and were forced to cut services there months ago. The downward trend could lead to more homeless on the streets.

"For us to help them plan for, 'OK, where do you want to be in the next week, in the next year?' It's hard for them to even think that far ahead," Costis said.

But on the night that was supposed to be their last, with little money in their bank account, the Bread of Life somehow finds a way to be optimistic.

"As long as we continue to operate on the premise of hope, that we give back to our population and our clients, everything else will take care of itself," Hogan said.

The homeless men we spoke with tell us the Bread of Life really is a last resort -- a final stop before sleeping under that bridge. The Houston Homeless Coalition says the programs that got cut actually helped drop the number of homeless on our streets by as much as 10 percent.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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