“They (Denton P.D.) treated me like I was a human being. They actually treated me like they cared. It’s not easy to trust people when you’re on the street for, various reasons. Honestly, a couple times I would have given up if it hadn’t been for them. I really would have.”-Brian Clark
Building Trust: Street Outreach
When the Street Outreach Team came to the end of the winding path in a wooded area inside Denton, they were greeted by a large dog. They did not know if they should run, shout or stand their ground. They stood their ground and a 4 year relationship began. Brian was born and raised in Denton. At 56 years old, he lives with his dog Baxter in a two bedroom apartment, loves to work with his hands and fish in the local ponds. This wasn’t the case when the Street Outreach Team first met Brian – over 4 years ago – a former Marine and licensed HVAC technician. Brian was living in one of the encampments far off the beaten path. His camp immediately stood out to the team, yes, because of the greeting received from Baxter, but also because his area was amazingly clean and well kept. This was not the usual “homeless camp site”. When asked about this unusual way of keeping his camp, Brian replied, “I didn’t want to give up my humanity, that is why I kept the camp clean.”
“I didn’t want to give up my humanity, that is why I kept the camp clean.”– Brian Clark
Changing the Narrative
Many view homelessness as a person without a stable environment due to laziness, drug addiction, and/or the poor choices they made in life. Maybe, but what if we could change the narrative? What if we could show that each homeless person has a story and those stories can be like yours, like mine. Every one of us could be a step away from losing everything. Can we change our view of homelessness to hope?
Brian was not born into homelessness, he did not fall in by way of drugs and alcohol, nor was this a choice he made. Rather, it was a series of unfortunate events that lead Brian from living a life of normalcy to surviving a life of uncertainty. For 3 years, Brian made his way through the homeless lifestyle of not knowing where you will lay your head, when you will be asked to move, who could you trust not to steal from you, how you would feed yourself, and so forth. This is a kind of worry most of us don’t contend with on a daily basis, and to do all this with dignity and humility allows us to take a different look into the life of homelessness. Brian was homeless, but he was not trapped in a life that he couldn’t change with a little support.
The City of Denton has a large number of resources that are available 7 days a week, for those experiencing homelessness. From soup kitchens, to work programs, to recovery classes, to shelters, and more. There are so many organizations that want to give a hand up to our homeless population. When asked how Brian finally transitioned out of the encampment to an apartment, he said, “I had a lot of support and utilized the services- I had to use services.”
Today, Brian lives in a beautiful home, has reconnected with his adult daughter, looks forward to hanging with his 9 year old dog Baxter, and spends his days working on cars and broken machines as well as taking time to fish and reflect on a life well lived. Today, Brian lives a life of hope because someone took the time to care and because he had a city of services that work day in and day out, that are truly concerned with those living a life of uncertainty.
Let’s change the narrative. Homelessness is not a defining moment in a person’s life. Homelessness can lead to a life of hopefulness. Life is worth listening to.