Productivity and Peace
Being productive makes them feel safe,” says Valerie Gooch, Executive Director of the Panhandle Adult Rebuilding Center (PARC), located on Sixth Avenue downtown, west of FirstBank Southwest Tower. “They call this their ‘first safe place.’ It’s a safe haven.”
She’s talking about the homeless members of The PARC, where men and women often spend their days after shelters close in the mornings. At The PARC, these individuals can attend art or life skills classes for free. They pursue creative projects like painting or woodworking, or simply engage in meaningful conversations.
Homelessness is dehumanizing, and the daily cycle of finding food and shelter can reduce life to base elements of survival, Gooch says. It’s incredibly stressful. As a result, the unhoused have few relationships. They rarely get called by name. No one looks them in the eye or engages with them at a human level.
The PARC offers a reprieve from that cycle, along with the ability to start and finish projects. That sense of accomplishment helps restore dignity and confidence—and can be the key that unlocks potential. “In their world, peace is something to be cherished,” Gooch says.
Gooch tells countless stories of PARC members who have found jobs or apartments within a few weeks of showing up. Others enter and graduate from recovery programs.
“We are passionate about how we change people’s lives who are homeless,” she says. An average of 30 or so individuals visit every week, often referred by local agencies. “They are all just seeking acceptance and relationships.”
Meanwhile, Gooch is seeking local volunteers to teach creative classes—even once a month—or simply to show up and have conversations while painting, coloring or doing puzzles. “Relationships are where we see the biggest change,” she says.
But other changes are coming to The PARC, which recently purchased the property behind the building and the parking lot immediately to the east. Currently in the final design stage, the expansion will give The PARC a larger building for classes plus creativity stations, along with the green space of a “pocket park” on the property. “It’s going to be beautiful. We want to display the beauty of our community and add to the beauty of downtown Amarillo,” Gooch says.
To help fund the expansion, The PARC is hosting “A Downtown Affair,” a ticketed event on Oct. 22 on the rooftop of the parking garage at Sixth and Buchanan. The evening features live music and art demonstrations, plus a fully catered meal and open bar.
Learn more about the organization or purchase tickets for the event at theparc.net.