There is the Denton we all see and love……..vibrant, fun, comfortable, familiar, busy and diverse. There is another Denton that few see and many don’t know exists. Homeless Denton co-habitates with our daily lives and is anchored in places that would amaze many.
We all see people we suspect are without daily shelter…..we may even be approached on occasion by someone asking for a handout, but we don’t have the obvious clues of people at busy intersections, signs in hand, asking for money for one need or another as we do in larger cities. The absence of this does not mean there are not people struggling to live beside the roads, under the bridges and in camps in the woods of Denton.
Denton has programs to feed and provide essential needs to the less fortunate. Our Daily Bread is probably the most noticeable of these essential centers. Our Daily Bread has food, personal hygiene items, some transportation and even medical care for the homeless. When it comes to shelter though, the pickings are slim. The Salvation Army has very limited space, with separate areas for men and women. But they cannot begin to handle the numbers that live within the City of Denton.
The homeless are homeless due to many different reasons. Some have mental issues, others substance abuse problems, some are homeless due to the economy……….some just chose that life. I think the average Dentonite would be dumbfounded at, for the most part, the invisible population of homeless people in our city.
Some live in alleys, under bridges, in abandoned buildings, but a large number of the homeless live in camps within a mile or two of our Square. These camps consist of visqueen (yes, that is the correct spelling) covered mattresses and sleeping bags, in tents, boxes, or out in the open. Often tucked in thickets which provide additional protection, these “homes” are the only shelter from the elements these people know. Some are bunched together, but most house just one person.
The people who live in these “towns” within our town are fiercely protective of their locations. The less people know, the better. A couple of the camps are amazingly large with populations of elderly, runaways, baby-boomers and even children. The police are aware of these camps, but for the most part allow the residents to live as they must. During the daytime, they are mostly abandoned as people go about their lives. As dark settles, small fires are lit, cooking stoves started and bags are occupied.
These areas, of course, do not have the simple things like water, sewers, trash collection etc.. that we take for granted and thus have the looks of a refuge camp which, in fact, they are. Piles of trash, large collections of empty bottles, clothing, bikes and “natural” bathrooms litter the camps. The people get by, but it is a very hard life. The “real” world to these people has very little resemblance to the world we know.
The homeless “problem” is around us and is part of Denton. We may not see it, but it is here and it is close. Society struggles on how to help these people in towns and cities around the world. Here in Denton, we can give to our Daily Bread, the Salvation Army, and support Dr. Filipo Masciarelli, who along with his wife, provides medical care to Denton’s homeless population……..there are other ways to help if they are sought out. The Holiday Season is usually a time we think of giving to and helping others, but there so many who need assistance year-round.
We are so fortunate to live in Denton, let’s think of ways to help those who live in Invisible Denton……….