|Photos by Anna Merlan|
|County Commissioner Elba Garcia and Judge Clay Jenkins at yesterday's ribbon-cutting ceremony at The Bridge|
Things all went wrong for Renee so recently she can still count the days: 32. That's how long it's been since she lost her job, her car was repossessed and her house was foreclosed on. "Everything just fell apart so quickly," she says.
She's in her mid-40s with bright green eyes. Yesterday she was wearing a teal tank T-shirt and a delicate silver cross around her neck, sitting at the table in the outdoor pavilion at The Bridge
, the homeless shelter and outreach center near the downtown Farmers Market. "All of a sudden, there I am, putting things in boxes outside my house." To make things worse, she said, all this happened less than a week after her 24-year-old daughter, an Army sergeant, was deployed to Afghanistan.
"I miss her so much," she added softly, looking teary.
I met Renee during what was billed as a good-news event: Dallas County officials invited media to The Bridge Wednesday afternoon to look at their newest acquisition: four high-powered cooling fans in the outdoor pavilion, soon to be followed by two more. The Port-A-Cooler fans were sponsored by TXU, which donated $2,500; AT&T, which gave another $2,500; Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, which gave $3,000, and the Meadows Foundation, which gave the final $8,000. Representatives from all these groups gathered in a small dining room with white tablecloths just off The Bridge's main courtyard.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was there too. Administrators at The Bridge credited Jenkins with recommending the project and helping to secure the corporate funding. He looked freshly starched in a blue blazer and a flag pin. His tiny blond daughter huddled under his arm as he stood in front of the audience, gazing intently at her pink sequined shoes while he spoke.
"I know with separation of church and state, I'm not supposed to get up here and talk about this," the judge said. He talked about getting into a car accident in 1993. "I was dead for a time," he said, sounding cheerful. After his recovery, he said, "I read my Bible and thought about ways to honor God." He concluded that the best way was to "help those in need, and help the homeless."
Commissioner Elba Garcia, in a white suit and matching heels, agreed. "It's amazing how close we've all been to homelessness," she said.More »