RADIANT VERMIN Panel and Outreach

Kitchen Dog has now drawn the curtains on our production of RADIANT VERMIN, a show which in so many ways discusses the displacement of the homeless community for the sake of gentrification. While putting up this show, it was important to us to not only comment on homelessness in our art, but to commit to helping alleviate it here in our city.

 photo from @lamexmama on instagram. L to r: a casita triste, willie baronet of we are all homeless, artist giovanni valderas, robin craddock from austin street center, and tim johnson, director of radiant vermin.

photo from @lamexmama on instagram. L to r: a casita triste, willie baronet of we are all homeless, artist giovanni valderas, robin craddock from austin street center, and tim johnson, director of radiant vermin.

The most important thing we needed to do was listen. We started by hosting a post-show panel of local community leaders right in the thick of helping our Dallas homeless community, and grappling with gentrification. Giovanni Valderas (the artist behind Casita Triste), Willie Baronet (founder of We Are All Homeless and our featured artist in this production’s lobby), and Robin Craddock (a case manager at the Austin Street Shelter), joined us to discuss the show, how it relates to our Dallas community, and how we can help them in their fight to end homelessness or gentrification.

We wanted to make sure we were engaging this issue outside of the theater as well, so Tina Parker and I took to the city to tour Vogel Alcove and Austin Street, and to meet with leaders at those organizations to see how we can help.

Vogel Alcove is a daycare for kids facing homelessness. They serve children from six weeks old to five years year-round, and offer classes and engagement activities to older children during school breaks. We toured their beautiful facility, and were grateful for the thought and care that they offer the children they serve. From farm-to-table dining, thoughtful design and decoration, and plenty of outdoor space and nap time, Vogel Alcove really is a safe space for these kids to land. We learned a lot about the brain development of kids in crisis, the unique challenges they face at school and at home, and the immense variety of services Vogel Alcove provides these kids.

After Vogel Alcove, we toured Austin Street Center, a facility holding about 400 people needing emergency housing. We visited on a rainy day and the shelter opened early to get as many people as they could out of the rain. Austin Street is really committed to their residents whether they are there for one night or several years, and provides so much more than a roof over their residents’ heads - they offer guidance in receiving an ID, medical check-ins, warm meals, long-term housing guidance, case management, entertainment, a safe place to store belongings… the list goes on and on. We learned that one of the major reasons people face homelessness is because of trauma - something like losing a job, a death in the family, or a lack of familial support - and that along with food, water, and money, one of the best things we can offer people with homelessness is human connection.

We’ve already had some great conversations with these community leaders about unique ways Kitchen Dog can help them. Here are some ways you can help, too!

Ways to help Vogel Alcove: donate items to their fundraisers, get a group of friends to make “bye-bye bags” - snack bags for the kids to take with them when they finish school for the day, donate new toys and clothes, volunteer to spend some time rocking the infants to sleep (not a bad way to spend an afternoon!)

Ways to help Austin Street: volunteer to bring meals (mostly needed on weekdays), donate gently used towels or clothing, donate toiletries (things like big shampoo bottles or soaps and feminine hygiene products), offer to perform for the residents as a monotony breaker.

Have any other ideas? Need help getting involved? Shoot me an email at haley@kitchendogtheater.org