Red Wagon Pantry steps in to help homeless

Brownsville’s Red Wagon Pantry crew has been out delivering meals and hygiene supplies to the city’s downtown-based homeless residents in lieu of other weekend services provided to those who can’t shelter in place.

On Sunday evening, residents gathered outside the La Plaza bus station to greet a group of five regular volunteers who served a hot chicken dinner in foam trays from the coalition’s red van. They provided a bagged meal for Monday and also bundles of toiletries and essential items to around 20 familiar faces who gathered in a line, each six feet apart.

Some residents wore masks. One, who asked to be identified as “Mr. Survivor”, explained that the local day shelter Good Neighbor Settlement House is providing bagged meals during the week, but that across the city, basic services like access to restrooms, for which residents usually visit gas stations, the bus station, and restaurants, are unavailable due to COVID-19 related closures.

Red Wagon Pantry makes several stops on Adams Street before venturing into alleyways where residents are taking refuge behind donation boxes. Brownsville’s homeless residents come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances and rely primarily on the services provided by coalition members for weekend meals.

Founders Brian and Camie Crisp have dedicated large sections of their home to serve as a thrift shop and food pantry and are accepting donations to sustain the people they feed, as well as to step in and assist vulnerable Valley residents whose needs aren’t being addressed as the crisis plows along with no clear end in sight.

Crisp asked the public to keep staff in their prayers as the group “puts their own health on the line every time they go to the streets.” Red Wagon’s staff is outfitted in full personal protective gear and is not leaving the van during food service in an effort to keep both volunteers and residents safe.

Many of those living in downtown don’t have masks, access to running water, hand soap, and sanitizers, and can’t properly adhere to local emergency orders while homeless.

The coalition is asking for items such as canned fruit, beans, Vienna sausage, hot dogs, ravioli, and SpaghettiOs – all with pull tabs to ensure residents can open them. Other non-perishable items like canned applesauce and boxed cereal would also be helpful, Brian said.

The couple is always in need of wet wipes, socks, sleeping bags; blankets, rain jackets, and other wet weather gear to give to residents on the streets who deal with inclement weather and do not always have access to shelter, sinks, and showers.

Last month, the team passed out FM/AM radios to the downtown residents and is in need of AA and AAA batteries to keep the gadgets functioning.

Red Wagon Pantry can be contacted at (956) 371-9293 (English) and (956) 312-8684 (Spanish).