As temperatures begin to drop, the Monsignor King Outreach Center will see higher and higher occupancy. It’s getting cold. Many who are homeless are already seeking shelter and refuge.
Before they arrived at the Denton shelter, Veronica Gomez and her seven children, ages 1 to 9, were all sleeping inside her GMC Envoy in a Walmart parking lot. The 28-year-old mother said they’d been turned away at several other shelters because she had kids.
It was three weeks ago, when it wasn't quite as cold as it is now, but it was soon to be Thanksgiving.
On her mind, she said, was: “Is there somewhere we can go?”
And so they found the Monsignor King center, which they've affectionately called “The Dog Pound,” Gomez said. It’s definitely better than the parking lot, she said. But it wasn't always this way.
In November 2016, her children's father, who was from Mexico, died of health complications. Her family moved in with her father, who died of natural causes in May, Gomez said.
Nearly all of her savings — a little over $3,000, she said — was spent on her father’s funeral services, leaving her with $100 to her name.
Slowly at first, and then all at once, Gomez and her family — which includes two sets of twins — were homeless.
“Some people are quick to judge you. People say, ‘Oh, look, a single mom with so many kids. That must be her problem,’” Gomez said.
But it isn’t the problem, she said.
She moved in with her father because he would help her with the children on the days she had to work. He was “my rock,” Gomez said. After he died, though, she couldn't afford the rent on the home because in the last few months of her father's life, she took time off from her work as a dental assistant to be with and comfort him.
“On one hand, you’re trying to save the world,” Gomez said. “And then you can’t save yourself.”
Soon, her hours were cut. And then she was cut, she said. Jobless, and then homeless.
“I don’t regret it. I don’t regret losing the hours, I don’t regret losing my job,” Gomez said. “I don’t have that time anymore with my father.”
Even still, this is the reality she and her seven kids live.
It’s the reality of many in Denton, including 24-year-old Marcus Story, who’s been in Denton since Oct. 31. Before that, he was homeless in Roanoke, he said.
“I just take it one day at a time,” Story said.
Story was one of 73 occupants on Friday night at King shelter, located on Woodrow Lane in eastern Denton. The city recently cleared out a homeless encampment that at times held as many as 30 people, and many members of Denton’s homeless population are likely looking for somewhere to sleep most nights.
The King center is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights and during inclement weather — such as when temperatures are below freezing or above 100 degrees. For now, it's home for Story, Gomez and dozens of others.
When not at capacity, it’s a place where people, including families and their pets, can safely sleep, clean themselves, seek refuge from the weather and eat a hot meal on some nights of the week. People at the shelter also frequent Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen downtown, which also often provides food to the King center.
Instead of an SUV in a parking lot, Gomez and her family have warm beds; lights and tables where her kids can do their homework from their Denton ISD elementary school; toiletries and cleaning products.
“If you need anything, you just ask,” Gomez said, adding that the King center's volunteer staff have afforded her comfort and security, along with good company.
“They need help,” said Debbie Millican, vice president of the Monsignor King Outreach Center’s executive board. “We need somebody to help.”
Gomez said her goal moving forward is to get “that job,” she said. That job, the one that will get her out of homelessness, that will prove as current income history so she can be approved for an apartment for her family. The one that pays $18 or $20 an hour, instead of the $11 wage she was making before, she said.
For that, though, she’ll have to go to school. And so her plan, she hopes, is to enroll in the University of North Texas' Professional Development Institute, which offers paralegal, dental and medical assistant, private investigator, human resources and other courses.
It’s a long road ahead for Gomez and her family, but she said she’s ready for what’s next.
“I’m hoping this is going to be my only experience [with homelessness],” she said. “When I get out of the Dog Pound, I’m going home.”
How to Help
The Monsignor King Outreach Center will have an open house and collection drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at 300 S. Woodrow Lane.
The shelter is in need of volunteers as well as extra-long twin-size sheets for its bunk beds, insulated gloves, hats, coffee and more.
For more information, contact Debbie Millican at 940-206-8683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.