Reno’s Chop Shop Saloon bartender Jessica Brodsky says she was taking a break outside the bar Dec. 24 when she noticed a man who was sitting alone.
“I saw this guy walking on the street, and it was cold, so I invited him in,” she says. “No one should be cold and alone on Christmas Eve.”
She learned the man's name is Kenneth and that he was looking for light work so he could earn money to pay for shelter for the night.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking,” Brodsky says. “Working in Deep Ellum, I see so many homeless people, and I get played by some of them sometimes, and others I see right through their stories, but this guy seems different.”
Brodsky offered Kenneth refuge and some food from the Reno’s kitchen, and later in the week, he returned to thank her.
“He said he has come by looking for me every day, but I wasn’t here when he would come in,” Brodsky says. “He brought me a black sweater in a gift bag. It’s gonna make me cry all over again.”
The veteran bartender says she doesn’t know much about Kenneth yet, but she is planning to meet with him next week to find out more about him and his past.
“He said that since he is an African-American male that he often gets stereotyped, and not a lot of people want to help," she says.
According to a report issued by the Dallas Commission on Homelessness, the homeless population increased 24 percent in 2017. A 2014 study shows more than 300,000 residents living in poverty and another 600,000 living in housing-distressed households.
Brodsky says she reached out to a woman who works on a Dallas homeless committee for advice.
“She said to tell him to get into a program or he can do Homeward Bound, where they will give him a bus ticket home to his friends or family," Brodsky recalls. "If all he needed was a bus ticket, I could do that. I want to end his homelessness, not just shuffle him around.”
Although she's still unsure of how to help, Brodsky says her social media posts have elicited responses from friends and Reno's patrons.
“It’s very touching to see all these people that want to help," she says. "So many times, you give [the homeless] money and then you turn away, so it is kind of nice to see so many people sharing and offering to help.”
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Brodsky has received clothing and blankets for Kenneth, and others have offered him a place to stay.
“The shares and response has been kind of crazy," she says. "When [Kenneth] came back on Christmas Day, so many people had already heard his story and were so welcoming.”
Brodsky says once she learns more about Kenneth, she might start a GoFundMe account for his benefit. The experience has encouraged her to put more thought into her interactions with strangers.
"It kind of broke my heart seeing how what little I did affected him so much,” she says. “We just cried and cried.”