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More than 3,500 students in DISD are homeless.EXPAND
More than 3,500 students in DISD are homeless.
Moore Media/iStock

Promise House Encourages Business and Community Leaders To Sleep on a Bridge for a Night

Tonight one red carpet premiere is forgoing the luxury of an upscale cinema for the Ron Kirk Pedestrian Bridge. I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story, a new Lifetime movie starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Angela Fairley, will screen as part of the festivities scheduled at the annual Promise to Care event.

This is the fourth year of the event (originally operating under the name Sleep Out) that invites North Texas business and community leaders to spend a night trading away the comfort of their homes to sleep on the Ron Kirk bridge. While an event that offers sleeping bags, on-site restrooms, food, drinks and security can’t replicate the absolute loss of power and security that comes with homelessness, it does hope to provide perspective on what even a glimpse of another life feels like.

The selection of the film I Am Somebody’s Child is a fitting one, as the story centers on the true account of Regina Louise, a young African-American girl who saw the inside of over 30 foster homes and psychiatric facilities before her 18th birthday. The story of Louise’s struggle to find a home and reconnect with the woman fighting to adopt her is not foreign to the people who work at Promise House, an organization dedicated to ending youth homelessness.

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Cobi Gray, chief development officer of Promise House, sees annual events like Promise to Care as a great opportunity to spread the word of both the organization and the cause her staff rally daily to overcome.

“There are over 3,500 students in DISD alone who are homeless,” Gray says. “They are unsheltered or experiencing some sort of housing instability. They might be self-asserting, staying with relatives here or there, and really doing their best to try to go to school. We’re really excited about all the new things that we have coming up, in addition to what we’ve been doing for the past 35 years, in terms of providing, really sheltering services for the most vulnerable in our city, and really trying to end youth homelessness.”

Promise House has spent the better part of the last four decades providing aid to youths who are homeless and need assistance providing stability at a crucial juncture of their lives. The organization offers an emergency youth shelter for minors removed from their homes because of poor living conditions, living on the street or runaways who feel they have nowhere to go. In addition, Promise House operates a shelter for teens who are expecting a child.

“We’re one of the only shelters in North Texas that allows pregnant mothers to come if they have one child and are expecting a second child,” Gray says.

Promise House works double duty providing services to both treat and prevent youth homelessness. While the shelters provide critical lodging, they also manage clinical services that make individual and group therapy available for the at-risk youths, assessing the best path for them to overcome the trauma that led to their homelessness, providing coping skills that lead them to a more resilient and stable future.

“We have services where it’s a community counseling program,” Gray says. “It’s an intervention, where we work with family and teams to help repair some of the communication and the broken family dynamics that may be contributing to a teen wanting to leave the home. Really helping to work through some of those challenges and issues in hopes to prevent homelessness.”

Even though the current workload keeps Promise House sufficiently busy, they’re also in the late stages of opening the new Fannie C. Harris Youth Center. In collaboration with After8toEducate, a program to support unsheltered high school youth in Dallas, and CitySquare, Promise House is far along in the process to open a secondary residential services center in the Fair Park neighborhood. The Fannie C. Harris Youth Center will serve DISD enrolled or enrollable youth between the ages of 14 and 21, offering an emergency youth shelter and transitional living program for South Dallas residents. The new center, prospectively scheduled to open this summer, almost doubles the shelter capacity for Promise to Care.

Between projects like the Fannie C. Harris center and the breadth of services Promise House labors to continually maintain, the funding they receive between private donors and federal allowances only carries the organization so far. It’s events like Promise to Care that bridge the gap in funding and support the programs that provide a safety net for youths fighting for a chance.

“We absolutely want to raise awareness, but we have to raise the investment we have in our organization,” Gray says, “in order for us to be able to continue to provide services and really expand our ability to be able to serve more youths who need us.”

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