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Churches Are Breaking the Law on Purpose to Shelter the Homeless in Dallas This Winter

It is against the law for churches to provide shelter for the homeless in Dallas, but some are doing it anyway.

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Homeless in Dallas
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(TMU) — When the air temperature plunges below freezing in generally warmer climates, people are often caught off guard. And no one feels it more than those experiencing homelessness who call the streets their home, especially in cities that are largely unprepared for these dangerous temperatures.

In 2018, two Dallas residents froze to death when the temperature reached 13 degrees on an especially brutal January night that happened to be the coldest of the last seven years. Cold like that pushes those experiencing homeless into survival mode—staying warm is less of a priority when there is a real risk of death. The goal at this point is to simply survive until the morning.

On the coldest nights, available shelters fill to capacity quickly. The risk of gathering up all of one’s belongings and trudging to a shelter only to be told it is full isn’t one everyone is willing to take. Some instead choose to find warm vents and groups of others who sleep on the streets to hunker down with, or ride public transportation all night, but others just don’t find a safe place in time, which can unfortunately result in frostbite and even death.

David Timothy, founder of the nonprofit SoupMobile, told the Dallas News: 

“The sad, tragic fact is there’s not enough shelter beds, so even if every homeless person wanted to get into a shelter tonight, there’s not enough room. And that’s not a knock on the city. There just aren’t enough resources.”

But the city of Dallas does have a major hand in the lack of shelter beds and safe spaces and to some, is directly responsible for deaths like these.

When temperatures become life threatening, Rachel Baughman, senior pastor at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church in Dallas, opens the church’s doors to its neighbors experiencing homelessness. This seemingly simple act shouldn’t be surprising or unusual—but in Dallas it is.

Only one month after those two Dallas residents, Jesse Johnson Jr. and Donna Bannister, were both found dead only a block away from a church, Wayne Walker, executive director of OurCalling, a homeless resource and outreach center OurCalling, received a code violation letter.

According to the Texas Observer, “Chapter 51A of the Dallas Development Code bans overnight shelters within 1,000 feet of a church, school, park, or other entity, preventing places of worship and virtually anyone else from offering aid.”

A 2019 Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance report—”State of the Homeless”—revealed that the homeless population in Dallas is growing. In fact it grew about 9 percent since the previous year. Despite this, Dallas hasn’t built any new shelter beds in more than a decade.

The director of Dallas’ Office of Homeless Solutions, Monica Hardman, says the city is working on a long-term emergency shelter plan. While that plan would include participation from local churches, Walker told the Observer:

“There’s just no room in the code right now for an emergency like this. People are dying, people are freezing.”

And so the city has, for the first time, opened the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to homeless people on cold nights but the effort isn’t enough. And just last week the city lowered the temperature threshold that triggers the shelter’s operation from 36 to 32 degrees. Hardman calls it “a stop-gap plan,” but multiple Dallas churches and organizations would be ready to open their doors right now if doing so weren’t illegal.

Even still, people like Baughman and Walker are willing to take the risk and, according to Walker, attempt to operate “under the radar” to provide live-saving shelter. And eve when the Convention Center is open, Baughman still sees around 100 people at her church seeking to enjoy a warm meal and sleep on the cots scattered throughout the sanctuary and various classrooms.

Baughman told the Observer last week:

“A citywide emergency plan is what’s truly needed. We’re doing the best we can, but it’s not enough.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing homeless in Dallas, the Metro Dallas Homeless alliance has a list of resources that are updated during cold weather events as well as a crisis helpline (1-888-411-6802).

By Emma Fiala | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Good News

Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces

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Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.

And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.

The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.

The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.

At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.

When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.

Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.

The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.

The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.

“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.

“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.

His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.

Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.

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Animals

Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber

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An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.

In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.

“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”

As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.

Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.

“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.

Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.

So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.

“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”

As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.

Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.

“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”

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Animals

Binx the Cat, Who Survived Florida Condo Collapse, Found and Reunited With Family

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Amid the tragedy of last month’s collapse of a South Florida condo building, there was a tiny bit of good news when a cat named Binx, who lived on the ninth floor of the Surfside building, was found safe and returned to his family.

“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the lives of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a Friday press conference, reports NPR.

Levine Cava explained that a volunteer who feeds street cats in the area recognized the cat near the building before bringing him to an animal shelter, where it was then identified.

Gina Nicole Vlasek, the co-founder of the The Kitty Campus rescue group, posted on Facebook that a black cat had been found near the rubble of the group before it was brought to the shelter on Thursday night.

“We are so grateful to be able to help in any small way,” Vlasek said.

“All we needed was a ray of hope in this tragedy,” she continued. “Today was one of the most amazing days.. one of the survivors came to see the cat and to determine if it was her families cat and IT WAS!”

The mayor said that animal control workers are continuing to work to recover any pets that may have survived the horrible collapse.

The 12-story Surfside condo collapsed on June 24. At least 79 people have been confirmed dead, with 61 additional residents remaining unaccounted for.

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