- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - Sporting a scruffy white beard and salt-and-pepper wavy hair, Chris Dunn blends in well with those around a breakfast table at Timothy’s House of Hope, a meal site in Davenport for the hungry.

“I’ll keep you in my prayers,” Dunn told a man, who asked not to be identified as he fought back tears over a plate of biscuits and gravy. He’s struggling through a divorce and living out of the back of his truck, which needs a new timing chain. “I love you like a brother,” Dunn added as he patted the man on the back.

By now, it’s obvious the 56-year-old Dunn, who’s rocking close-fitting jeans, a wool sweater and Under Armour shoes, isn’t there for the free spread; he’s there to listen.

The Quad-City Times (https://bit.ly/2fXyJiV ) reports as a homeless outreach worker for The Center, 1411 Brady St., he spends part of most days checking in on his “friends” at various spots that serve those living in poverty.

In “normal” social situations, Dunn, who stands at 6 feet, 3 inches, thinks he may come across as awkward. But the married father of two, who has a home in Rock Island, said he feels most comfortable when he’s consoling those on the streets.

“These people are so honest once we’ve established trust, which sometimes comes right away and sometimes takes time,” he said.

It’s hard for Dunn to go unnoticed at a place like Timothy’s.

The same people he’s looking for usually approach him first.

Rick Powers, a Vietnam War veteran who used to be homeless, caught up with Dunn on his way into the building.

“He (Dunn) got me off the street corner about two years ago,” Powers said. “I was sleeping outside, and he helped get me clothes and an apartment.”

The Long Island, New York, native, who studied education at Boston University, couldn’t put a number on the amount of homeless people he knows on a first-name basis. However, he estimated he has assisted “hundreds” of people over his 15 years in the Quad-Cities.

Following his visit at the table, Dunn pedaled his bicycle he rides to work most days, one block south to the Laundromat, 1351 W. 3rd St. A few people outside greeted him with hugs and handshakes as he arrived.

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesdays twice a month, Dunn and other volunteer do-gooders host laundry ministry there, where people can clean their clothes for free during the two-hour time frame.

Margot Hary, whom Dunn referred to as the “laundry angel,” praised the man for his work in the community.

“He carries Jesus with him,” Hary said. “It’s not just because he looks like him (Jesus); he acts like him, too.”

The modest Dunn, who still carries around a flip phone, said the majority of people he sees are chronically homeless who suffer from alcohol and/or drug-related addictions and mental health issues.

He strives to form bonds with as many of them as he can.

“Some of these people come from so many broken relationships and broken promises,” he said. “I just try to be consistent and do what I say I’m going to do.”

In downtown Davenport, the homeless population frequents multiple locations for food and shelter at various times of the day, including the Café on Vine, Humility of Mary Shelter, King’s Harvest Ministries, Salvation Army and St. Anthony’s Catholic Church.

Dunn, who formerly worked at King’s Harvest, touted Humility of Mary’s resources.

The shelter which is “full all the time” houses about 75 people, director of services Christine Adamson said.

Residents there can stay up to 90 days at a time between January and December.

“It’s a revolving door for some people,” said Adamson, who is in need of adult winter coats.

The Center, where Dunn works, also is open to anyone during the day, but he thinks the steep Brady Street hill deters many from going there.

“Unfortunately, the hill is a barrier,” he said. “A lot of people cannot walk that far.”

So he also routinely stops by the downtown Davenport Public Library and the downtown Davenport transit station, other hot spots for homeless people during the day.

As he walked through the doors of the Main Street Library on Thursday, Dunn scanned the crowd of patrons until he spotted a familiar face, Becky Peters.

Although she’s legally blind, Peters knows her way around down there.

The former homeless woman, with the help of her white cane, spent the morning researching potential future business endeavors.

“One of my goals is to open my own food truck,” said Peters, who recognized Dunn by the sound of his voice and referenced his good listening skills. “I’m tired of working for others.”

Library director Amy Groskopf said anyone can access services at any of the city’s three branches, but they don’t offer any specific resources to homeless people.

“If people are homeless and use us as a safe haven during the day, we don’t have a problem with that,” she said. “As long as people are using the library as a library, then they’re welcome in our facilities.”

Dunn said many people go there for shelter from extreme weather and free access to the internet and reading materials. The downtown branch has 20 computers, and guests can use a maximum of two hours of Wi-Fi per day there.

Dunn, who also paints houses and plays live music, planned to head home from the library before performing at continuing care retirement community Friendship Manor in the afternoon.

He credited his wife, a math tutor, for her support. Without it, he said, “it would be a heck of a lot harder to do what I do.”

For now, he’s content with his daily duties.

“It just seems like it’s a good fit for my personality,” he said. “This is where God wants me to be as far as I can tell.”

___

Information from: Quad-City Times, https://www.qctimes.com


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