I was soliciting businesses yesterday with Wesley, a junior volunteer intern from Waxahachie Global High, to raise funds, silent auction items and gift cards for the quickly approaching Pie Palooza that will be held on Nov. 10 at FUMC Waxahachie. Our local Homeless Coalition in Ellis County has been recruiting volunteer interns from local schools and colleges to provide them community service hours and internships that look good on their college transcripts.

During the two hours that Wesley and I approached grocery and big box stores, I received a call from a local family services group that had a young man in their office needing an affordable place to live as he was trying to get custody of his child. I had to explain to him that there is no emergency housing for men in Ellis County at this time. We are working on it, but it will take more community involvement and collaboration.

I had a young female student earlier that week approach me at Global High when we were recruiting volunteers that had to move out of her home situation and was looking for an affordable place to live. Not only was she completing her last year in high school, but she was working for $9 per hour and had just adopted her sister’s 2-year-old son. Thankfully I was able to direct her to the Presbyterian Children’s Home.

Wesley suggested we stop at Target. As we were walking in, we noticed a woman playing a violin on the curb across from the entrance. She had a sign on her speaker that read, “Single Mother, I have two kids. I need help for food and rent. God Bless.” We approached her after visiting with the Target store manager to learn more of her plight.

She spoke broken English and we were able to learn that she was going to be in our town for a week and was trying to raise money to get back to her children and mother in Los Angeles. A father and his child dropped $5 in her basket while we were talking to her as she took a break from the beautiful music she was providing the many shoppers.

Ellis County has a growing population of homeless that is caused by the increasingly high rents. I am hearing stories of some who claim their property taxes are reaching rates that they used to pay for their mortgage. Along with high rents, job loss and health issues play a big part in homelessness.

A few Sundays ago, eight churches came together as part of “Worship Without Walls,” organized by First United Methodist Church, to go into the community to help with projects for schools, homes and worship with shut-ins and nursing homes. We did some home repairs on a couple’s house identified by a Waxahachie inspector. Our work team learned from the couple that they were physically and financially unable to provide the upkeep on their home. In fact, they didn’t have hot water and couldn’t repair their roof because of the deductible it would require.

I visited another home the inspector gave us, but we were not financially able to help them. They didn’t have a front doorknob or lock on the front door. They had a window missing in just about every room in the house, and in one room the ceiling was being held up with a board. Part of the ceiling was missing in another room.

The husband had just been dismissed from a month-long stay in the hospital due to a heart condition, and his wife was bed-ridden laying under a window unit. It broke my heart that we were unable to help them because of the lack of funds and community support.

The last act performed by our previous mayor was to stand on the courthouse square on Easter morning sunrise service to read a declaration that Waxahachie was God’s city. With all the churches this city and county provides, I pray that God will stir in their hearts the need to come together to practice loving our neighbor in a more profound way. We do so many things right but are lacking in the area of the indigent and homeless.

The Local Homeless Coalition in Ellis County invites you to join us at the Pie Palooza on Sunday, Nov. 10, at First United Methodist Church in Waxahachie to learn how to make homelessness a rarity in our county.

There will be speakers from the Texas Housing Network and booths by local agencies and non-profits that provide support services. Everyone needs to be aware of these services so the next time you come upon someone who is homeless or on the verge of being homeless, you can bless them with the love this community is trying to provide them. We desperately need help to raise funds for Daniel's Den to build a new shelter this inaugural Pie Palooza will provide.

Visit the website http://EllisCountyHomeless.com to learn how you can love your neighbor.

James Bell, Local Homeless Coalition of Ellis County