Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dallas food pantry for people with HIV, AIDS must pack up, move

Thanks to the Dallas Morning News for covering this important story:

Resource Center of Dallas forced to move food pantry
Dallas food pantry for people with HIV, AIDS must pack up, move

Clients of a food pantry for people with HIV and AIDS got some unsettling news this week: Their free grocery is being forced to move.

The pantry in Oak Lawn has been a discreet symbol of how gays in Dallas organized to cope with a health crisis more than 20 years ago that forced many into poverty. Its history is entwined with the social agency that runs it, the Resource Center of Dallas, which is marking its 25th year and is one of the nation's largest centers serving the gay, lesbian and transgender community.

We are literally having to look at property right now," said Mike McKay, executive director of the Resource Center. A move will cost at least $25,000, and, he said, "It is a $25,000 unbudgeted expense for us."

The pantry operators received word a few weeks ago that their lease – which runs through December – would not be renewed. This week, the leasing agent for the property owner – RSA Inc. – said it would give the pantry an extra month to vacate.

"They are a landmark, and no one is out to get them," said Peter Deinken, a vice president at the leasing firm Harry B. Lucas Cos.

Mr. Deinken's letter to the Resource Center says a rear wall needs to be demolished and rebuilt, and it can't be done with that part of the building occupied.

In an interview, Mr. Deinken said the entire building is to be renovated.

"The properties are due for a face-lift to bring it up to snuff to the vibrancy of the whole district. ... Everyone wishes them all the best, but there are things that can't be held up," he said.

The 2,900-square-foot pantry operates on Cedar Springs Road. Its unmarked entrances are off a parking lot to give clients privacy.

Monday through Thursday, pantry doors open at 11:45 a.m., usually to a line of prescreened clients eager for vegetables, fruit and meat. Food comes from such places as Kroger, Whole Foods Market, and the North Texas Food Bank. During the holidays, client numbers increase to more than 1,500 a week.
On Wednesday, clients were given letters to let them know of the move.

"We are committed to maintaining our pantry program that many of you rely on to meet your nutritional needs," the letter said.

"Oh Lord, one more blow," said a 50-year-old man who identified himself only as Mark. "This will really hurt."

He said he has been coming to the pantry and the Resource Center almost since they opened in the 1980s. "It is a wonderful benefit and vitally important. And most of us are on fixed income."

Another client, Michael, said he hoped the new site would be close to a bus line. He said he has no job and no car.

"The pantry is very essential. I come here for meat, eggs and milk," he said.

[where: 75223]