Kent Smith opened an envelope a year ago, one week before Thanksgiving, that a man sent to his bar, One Nostalgia Tavern.
The letter — addressed to Smith, along with his bartenders Chase and Chris — asked for their help. He was homeless, in search of a mentor and headed to a rehabilitation program to combat drug addiction.
“Just needed to get off those streets for a while,” he wrote. “Get off the crack. I really appreciate you all befriending me. One Nostalgia Place was the place I felt most safe and accepted. I was thinking of you when I took this rehab.”
Smith has owned One Nostalgia Tavern for about four years. He’s found several people, without a place to sleep, napping on the side of the building. The man who sent the letter occasionally helped clean the property in exchange for a few dollars or a small meal. He hasn’t been the only one knocking on the tavern’s door asking for food or work.
What Smith sees at One Nostalgia is representative of a greater problem. Based on data from the most recent homeless count, the number of people sleeping on the streets has increased by 23 percent. The City of Dallas’ Office of Homeless Solutions developed a four-part plan to decrease that number in August. Residents and Dallas City Council shot down one of the plan’s components to convert spaces like recreation centers into temporary shelters.
Since then, efforts seem to be at a standstill, and City staff rejected seven potential sites that council members suggested converting to homeless assistance centers.
The Skillman-Abrams intersection near One Nostalgia and other areas of northeast Dallas like Hamilton Park have watched the number of homeless increase. At a recent community meeting in Hamilton Park, neighbors complained that some were sleeping in their backyards.
Smith isn’t sure of a solution, but he’s face-to-face with the issue daily.
He doesn’t know if the man who wrote him will spend this Thanksgiving alone, if he’s sober or if he’s alive. Smith hasn’t heard from him since he received the letter.