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February 2021 Charity of the Month - The Stewpot in Dallas

The Stewpot, an outreach program by the First Presbyterian Church founded in 1975, recognized a lack of resources in Dallas for the homeless and at risk populations. Striving to fill that void, the Stewpot has since expanded their initial food kitchens to include job training, counseling, after school programs for children experiencing homelessness, and even an art program that “nurtures the artistic talents of homeless and at-risk individuals.” Their motto is We Serve Second Chances.

Homelessness, for many that experience it, is a temporary station of their lives. And it can happen to anyone. The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that there are 553,742 people in the United States experiencing homelessness. That’s slightly less than the population of Albuquerque proper, the largest city of New Mexico. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Texas alone accounts for 25,848 as of January 2019. The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance 2019 Annual Point-In-Time Count estimates 3,722 people experience homelessness in the City of Dallas alone. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the looming eviction and foreclosure crisis in America, this number may have increased nationally. 

Since 2008, The Stewpot has been serving three meals a day, 365 days a year to the at-risk population at the Second Chance Café. In 2018 alone, they served 8 million meals. The Second Chance Café is on the campus of The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, which is a homeless shelter providing 24/7 shelter and partners with other organizations to offer a variety of services. The Bridge proudly serves 85% of the homeless population in Dallas County. The Stewpot has been a partner of The Bridge since its founding in 2008.

Their other services include health care, partnering with local agencies to provide dental, medical, and mental health care. Perhaps one of the most important programs to help heal after the traumatic experience of losing a home is their art program, which is both mentally, spiritually and financially helpful to its artists, as 90% of the profit from art sales goes back to its maker. On a similar note, their horticultural therapy provides stress relief and increases their sense of self-sufficiency through gardening.

Today, the Stewpot is in development of Encore Park in the undervalued southern area of Downtown, along Park Avenue, to significantly increase their outreach both to the homeless and at-risk populations and the community at large. This innovative plan combines increased service capacity to assist those in need with historic preservation, artistic expression, and even a museum. In fact, three buildings have been purchased. In fact, Encore Park earned an honorable mention in the Unbuilt Dream/Study Award category by the Greater Dallas Planning Council

“Encore Park in downtown Dallas is a rare example of urban design driven by a holistic mission instead of proforma. The priorities were public access, education, and transparency. By creating a dynamic venue for Stewpot services, the goal is removing preconceptions about homelessness and provide space (both physical and conceptual) to experience art, culture, and history within the urban realm for everyone.”

Perhaps the most unique building in their campus is the beautiful 508 Park, an art deco masterpiece built by Warner Brothers in 1930 for the creation and distribution of film and music. The music recorded in its third floor recording studio were as diverse as blues, Western Swing, Country Music, even Spanish and Czech music.  Neglected over 30 years, the building will find new life as the center of the Stewpot’s cultural programming. In 2015, the Stewpot completed construction of an amphitheater on the north side of the building facing Young Street that will turn the eyes of Dallas toward the Stewpot and become the venue for the Stewpot’s annual talent show. Encore Park’s community garden, also completed in 2015 on the south side of the building, has expanded their horticultural therapy program, provided employment opportunities for their clients, and supplied farm-fresh ingredients for the Second Chance Café. In their plans for this building include a recording studio, a gallery to showcase the art from the Stewpot’s art program, and a community garden. The community outreach ambitions truly shine in their planned Museum of Street Culture that will present street culture in a new light.

In the month of February, Grow Together will be donating 10% of all sales of the Grow Together Collection to 'The Stewpot' organization. 

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, in-person volunteering opportunities has been suspended. Check here for updates on their coronavirus response. However, there are still other ways to help: 

 

Resources and links

http://www.museumofstreetculture.org/ 

http://www.508park.org/ 

http://www.508park.org/historical-overview

http://encoreparkdallas.org/

https://thestewpot.org/history  

https://www.bridgehrc.org/the-impact 

https://dallascityhall.com/departments/homeless-solutions/Pages/State-of-Homelessness.aspx#:~:text=In%202019%2C%20MDHA's%20State%20of,of%20which%201%2C452%20were%20unsheltered

https://www.usich.gov/homelessness-statistics/tx 

https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-report-legacy/#:~:text=There%20are%20an%20estimated%20553%2C742,people%20in%20the%20general%20population

https://www.gdpc.org/urban-design-awards