The fight against homelessness is a year-round endeavor in North Texas.
While making a routine outreach mission to a homeless camp in Fort Worth, John Ramsey found fish hooks hanging near a trail. He later learned a homeless man intentionally set the hooks to keep people away from his campsite. This led to a memo from the Fort Worth Police Department to officers with a warning about “booby traps” near homeless campsites.
Ramsey said he does not fear for his safety when helping the homeless and the booby trap area is not a reflection of the entire homeless population. His group, Tarrant County Hands of Hope, meets these challenges with compassion.
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“There is no quick fix, but it is how we react to it,” he said. “That is going to be through personal relationships with them and being able to make the connections.”
Ramsey said the homeless of Fort Worth have come from different areas.
“One client that we are working with originally became homeless during [Hurricane] Katrina. [She] moved to Houston to Dallas,” he said. “When they had the event in Dallas as far as closing the bridge over there, she hopped on the train and moved over here and we met her and her family.”
Hands of Hope gives essentials such as socks, toiletries and basic first aid kits to the homeless of Tarrant County. He encourages those with giving hearts to make donations in a smart way.
“One of the first things we try to do is educate the churches on a better way to give,” he explained. “If you are going to hand clothes out, take it to one of the shelters. Shelters distribute that by size and by need.”
Ramsey explained that much of the litter found near homeless camps is generated from discarded clothing that was donated but did not fit.
“I asked the city if I could get the weight of just the clothes at just one location. It was over a ton of clothes that was there,” he said of one homeless camp cleanup.
His group also works with the homeless to clean up the camps when someone is fined for panhandling or another minor infraction.
“That fine can range from $400 to $700 before it ever goes to warrant,” he said.
Hands of Hope then works with the courts.
“We assist them through community court and by going through community court, they send them back to us for community service,” he said. “Part of their community service with us is having them clean up their campsite. If there are 10 hours of community service, we want 10 bags of garbage picked up.”