By Diane Holloway
It’s a hotter-than-ever August and the middle of what seems like an endless pandemic. But Darlene, an Austin native who has been homeless for several years, still has a smile on her face. It’s hidden under a mask, but she smiles with her eyes and her cheerful “good-morning” voice.
Every day Darlene is one of the first in line on the sidewalk, waiting for the St. David’s gym doors to open and to-go breakfasts to be served. It’s the same nutritious food – bagel, egg, cheese, fruit, juice and coffee – she’s always had with us, but now it’s packed into boxes. After a cheerful thank you, she crosses the street to sit on a shaded curb and eat.
A regular member of our Trinity Center community, Darlene used to enjoy our inside services before the pandemic forced us outside.
“Oh, yes, I used to come with friends, and we’d sit and have coffee – and more coffee,” Darlene says. “We were sure glad for the restrooms. I loved the shopping and the showers. I loved all of it.”
Now she lines up for outside services – breakfast on weekdays, early supper on Sundays (“Yeah, I like the sausage wraps and sides.”) and women’s clothes on Mondays.
Like a lot of our downtown neighbors, Darlene, 65, is outside most of the time now that many churches and service groups are closed. She sleeps on the sidewalk by St. David’s, tucked closely to the building. She has tried shelters over the years but doesn’t like the atmosphere. When she has money, she gets a motel room.
The pandemic has challenged her usual optimism and made daily life on the streets even harder.
“People are getting sick out here. It’s scary,” she says. “You want to go somewhere to get out of the heat, and you have to keep looking for drinking water all day.”
Nevertheless, Darlene continues to find safety and solace with her Trinity Center family.
“I just feel comfortable with all you nice people,” she says. “It’s good to be with people who care about us. I can’t wait ‘til they say this sickness is over, so we can come in again. But I still love being here.”