The Dallas Connector Project will Provide Transportation for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

The new Dallas Connector Project launched in October 2019 to provide free and regularly scheduled transportation to individuals experiencing homelessness. This project ensures that clients are able to easily access services to secure healthcare, employment, and housing.

In addition to a grant assistance from the City of Dallas, the Dallas Connector Project is a collaboration between CitySquare, Austin Street Center, Our Calling, The Stewpot/First Presbyterian Church-Dallas, and The Salvation Army. The project also has the support of The Bridge Homeless Outreach Center, and Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.

“We are proud to be part of the Dallas Connector Project,” said Daniel Roby, CEO of Austin Street Center. “Lack of affordable public transportation is a long-standing problem for the homeless. Many commute by walking from one agency to another, often traveling five miles or more daily; however, this is especially challenging or impossible for those who are physically disabled, medically ill, or have mental health and/or cognitive issues. Reliable and free transportation will end people’s homelessness sooner, as they will be able to access services much faster.”

The Dallas Connector Project will kick off its services with a 25-passenger bus and a 15-passenger van, and selected service facilities on the Connector route will post and distribute schedules with all materials in both English and Spanish to their clients.

Making a Difference, One Haircut at a Time

For individuals experiencing homelessness, getting a professional haircut is not a priority, and most often not a possibility.

“Haircuts for the Homeless,” a monthly event at Austin Street Center, is a collaborative partnership with The Gents Place, a prestigious men’s hair salon, and Sincerely You, an independent nonprofit which advocates for equal rights and treatment for people experiencing homelessness.

Such a small gesture as a haircut makes a huge impact on Austin Street Center’s clients, further boosting self-esteem and hope for a better life in a world where they often feel invisible.

“Since I’ve been homeless, some people look at me different, but I want to leave the impression that I’m still a good person, capable of being everything I was before,” said Clay after a recent haircut.

In just a little over a year, this event has provided more than 1,000 haircuts and shaves with 100% client satisfaction.

“What I love about this monthly event is that it is the community coming in and circling around our clients and giving them more than a haircut,” said Dustin Perkins, Director of Client Services at Austin Street Center. “The volunteers are also giving a smile, warmth, dignity, love, kindness, and acceptance without judgment.”

 

Summer Heat Impact on Homelessness

Homelessness is challenging in every season! Frigid winter nights always spark concern over the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness; however, long days of summer are more dangerous.

The National Weather Service reports that severe heat is the number one deadliest form of extreme weather, killing over two times as many Americans as almost any other extreme weather event, and almost five times as many Americans as extreme cold. When people are exposed for prolonged periods, heat can have less lethal but still serious effects, such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, skin burns, dehydration, and hallucinations.

“Most of us know how oppressive the Texas sun is at this time of year, covering us in sweat in the brief moments it takes to get to our air-conditioned car from our air-conditioned office,” said Dustin Perkins, Director of Client Services at Austin Street Center.  “It’s so hot that you could literally bake cookies on your car’s dashboard!”

In addition to facing the uncertainty and stigma of homelessness, many clients also experience compounding effects of mental illness, substance abuse, or physical health complications.  All these factors  combined with excessive heat makes life more challenging, with the disturbance in clients’ mood as one of the most common visible side effects.  Violent incidents and threats between clients tend to increase in the summer months,  which is why Austin Street Center includes extreme heat in our inclement weather policies.

“We provide ice-cold water to anyone on the streets surrounding the shelter when the air temperature exceeds 90 degrees, and we open our doors early when the air temperature reaches 97 degrees or the heat index reaches 105 degrees,” said Robert Monroe, Director of Security at Austin Street Center. “Austin Street Center is the only shelter in Dallas that adjusts intake times for the summer heat.”

The summer heat also takes a toll on Austin Street Center’s operational resources, from increased utilities to a need for additional meals if an earlier intake occurs before lunch.

“While we always need bottled water, we also need blankets since we keep it nice and cool in the shelter for the clients,” said  Sharmeene Hayes, Director of Operations at Austin Street Center.