Dallas' The Bridge Homeless Center's Progressive Approach May Actually Make a Difference

With a no-hassles approach to panhandlers, Dallas' new shelter hopes to kill homelessness with kindness

Faenza asks if he'd be willing to go to The Bridge when it opens.

"I'm going to see what kinds of services they have. I'll try to take advantage of it. But..." Gary clasps his hands together, sounding a bit paranoid. "It's like—they're holding the funds back."

Faenza re-focuses Gary's attention on tonight. "At the Life center, could they take you in?" He's referring to the Dallas Life Foundation, a shelter behind the convention center. "Could you get in, if you had the money?"

From its inception, The Bridge was envisioned as a campus where the homeless, after receiving social services, would be primed for re-entry into a new life.
Courtesy of Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance
From its inception, The Bridge was envisioned as a campus where the homeless, after receiving social services, would be primed for re-entry into a new life.
Mike Faenza likes to tell his staff that the more times a person has been in jail, arrested or beaten up, the more welcome he will be at The Bridge.
MARK GRAHAM
Mike Faenza likes to tell his staff that the more times a person has been in jail, arrested or beaten up, the more welcome he will be at The Bridge.

"I'd really like something to eat." He says he's only had a slice of ham today.

"If you had the money to go wherever you'd like, where would you eat?"

"McDonald's. I'd get me some burgers and fries."

"You want food, but in terms of sleeping, are you OK?" Faenza presses.

"I've got blankets," he says.

Gary hunches through a hole in a chain-link fence, entering to retrieve his army jacket. He'll be right back, he says. Faenza waits on the street, wary of the "No Trespassing" signs that mark the structure. When Gary returns, Faenza asks him one last time whether he'll try out The Bridge when it opens.

"I'll be glad to," Gary says. "A person like me can take advantage of that situation. And I don't mind working."

"I'll see you over there," Faenza says, handing Gary a $20 bill for food. "I'll be over there a lot."

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