DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Despite improvements in the economy, homelessness is stubbornly persistent in our community. It's hard to put a number on it, but a recent count showed there are some 3,000 people in Iowa and more than 11,000 in Illinois without a place to call home. There are shelters and soup kitchens to help, but a unique ministry is reaching out in a remarkable way.
"Do you need some help, man?" Chris Dunn offers help from a bike. He rides his bike to the places where the homeless take refuge in central Davenport.
"She needs a back pack, (other woman talking in background) could you help her out with one?"
For people in transition, a backpack is vital. It's the oinly place to keep what little you have. During his rounds, Chris hands out items they need, but his main goal is to be a friend.
"We try to get to know people so we know how to help them, and also, so they can get to know us, so they can trust us," says Dunn.
And he's found an unusual way to build that trust and also bring joy to their lives, through the joy of music.
Every month, an open mic event is held at The Center in Davenport. Chris got the idea while working at a homeless shelter.
"I would sing a few songs and people would say, 'hey Chris, can I borrow your guitar?'"
With the struggles that come with being homeless, you may not think there's much to sing about, but through the open mic event, they can put their troubles behind, if for only a few moments.
"Mr. sandman, bring me a dream"
Ray Lipke, Jr. is quite the crooner.
"I love to sing"
He was recently living in a shelter and knows what life is like in transition. Now, he's taking ownership of this event, singing and serving as emcee.
"Some don't have nothing to do, it gives 'em, give them at least something to do," said Lipke.
"This is called, "Life is Crazy."
From poetry to politics, it's an open forum.
"People are judged upon religious beliefs, the color of their flesh."
And while the performers may come from different walks of life--some homeless, others from the neighborhood-- they all share a common bond.
Chris Dunn says the stage helps lift spirits and restore confidence.
"Gives people an outlet, ah, a voice and also to help create community and to foster kind of an environment that is alternative to the homeless street environment."
Back on the streets, Chris listens while some just need to vent.
"Well, Wednesday they're gonna start shutting down the shelter down here. Yeah, eveybody's got to get out at 7:00. There's not place to sit..no place to be there."
By using a simple mode of transportation, he gets a different perspective of those living on the edge. He's a man on a bike with a mission. Chris Dunn says it's a part-time job that combines his love for music and his ministry to the homeless. That's what keeps him rolling.
"You're a good man, Chris." "Well, God bless you, Les."
Chris Dunn believes the lack of affordable housing is the main reason for homelessness in our area. If you would like to help with his ministry, The Center could use donations of things like backpacks, new socks and bus tokens. They are located on Brady St.