This Morning at The Bridge

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I might’ve talked about this before. If I have, I apologize.

Actually, you know what? I take that back. I’m not at all sorry. Somehow, this conversation seems to be dying, and that’s just not okay.

This morning, L. and I helped prepare and serve breakfast at The Bridge, a day shelter for people experiencing homelessness. I’ve spent time in The Bridge’s kitchen, off and on, for more than 10 years, and I’ve had the honor of meeting and getting to know some of the most remarkable people in that space. (I’m looking at you, Tom F.)

This morning wasn’t much different from most: I cracked a gazillion-and-a-half eggs, I rolled silverware (Do plastic sporks count as silverware?), and I fretted over making sure each tray had similar portion sizes. The dining room was warmer than usual, a gift to Bridge guests who stayed outside last night. I smiled and offered “G’mornings” to everyone with whom I made eye contact. I gratefully heaped on second helpings, and I grinned conspiratorially as L. allowed guests to choose their piece of fruit and sweet roll. (Which is against the rules.) (Which is ridiculous.)

Really, there’s nothing unusual to report… and that’s a serious problem. That means there were still 100+ people in that dining room, some of whom are housed and food-insecure, but most of whom are unsheltered. Although I see new faces each time I volunteer there, I’ve also seen some of the same people, regularly, for two years—the tall guy from New Orleans, the middle-aged guy with the light brown skin and freckles, the young man with the beautiful twist braids, the mother and daughter who’ve been wearing the same sweatshirts for months.

Mostly, what hasn’t changed over the years is the reality that an overwhelming majority of Bridge guests are Black men. In 2014, 46.6% of people in St. Louis City were white, and 47.5% were Black. Standing in that dining room, you’d never guess the percentages are so similar. Not remotely.

So today I’ve been sad. And angry. There’s no good reason for homelessness to begin with, and there’s certainly no good reason why the overwhelming majority of people without homes in St. Louis are Black. You will never convince me that racial injustice isn’t real. It is real. And it’s ugly.

And, as my friend Willis Johnson has said more times than I can count, it may not be our fault, but it must be our fight. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m tired of seeing all those Black faces in that dining room.