FORT WORTH -- The crowd arrived early at the Cypress Street Cafe.The doors opened at 6:30 p.m. sharp Thursday and more than 100 people poured in, settling around tables with cups of steaming coffee, creamer and slices of cake.At the head of the room, Ricky Tate, the musician providing the night's entertainment, adjusted his microphone and opened with Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising.Soon, a few men and women in the audience were up dancing and clapping, basking in a relaxed vibe that homeless people don't often find.The Cypress Street Cafe is the creation of the Day Resource Center, the day shelter that serves as many as 600 homeless people daily in the city's homeless district. What began eight months ago drawing 30 to 40 people one night a month now regularly draws more than 100."Good coffee, good cake and good entertainment. What more could you ask?" said homeless guest Kelly Pennington, 61, cutting into a slice of cake. "We all love it."Bruce Frankel, executive director of the Day Resource Center, said he and other staff members had considered the idea for the coffeehouse night for a few years. A lot of people live in the neighborhood around the shelters but they have few organized social venues where they can gather. The day shelter is usually closed in the evening.So on the fourth Thursday of every month, the shelter at 1415 E. Lancaster Ave. becomes the Cypress Street Cafe."There is nowhere for them to come meet with a few friends to do the type of things you and I do all the time," Frankel said. "To go out and listen to some music together or sit down and have a cup of coffee. They like to do those things, too."The shelter didn't have extra money to spend on the event so it relies on volunteers. The Paradox Church in Fort Worth is among groups that sponsor the cafe, providing coffee, juice and desserts. Members of the congregation arrived before the doors opened Thursday, arranging refreshments on a long counter.Shelter staff members, who volunteer their time for the event, worked out arrangements with neighborhood night shelters like the Presbyterian Night Shelter and the Salvation Army so guests could attend, said Jessica Grace, who organizes the cafe."One of the main deterrents to evening activities for the homeless is that they have to be in their shelters at a certain time, usually 7 p.m.," Grace said. "So we worked out an arrangement that if they attend Cypress Street Cafe, we give them a late pass that verifies they were here and they can get back into the shelter."The shelter is always looking for more groups or organizations to volunteer or provide refreshments for the event, Grace added.One homeless woman at the cafe who identified herself as "Tinkerbell" said Thursday was the first time she had attended the cafe. There aren't many safe places to go in the neighborhood after dark, she said."There are just really no places to hang out," she said. "I heard about this and thought it was great. We're all having fun."The Day Resource Center opened in 1999, offering homeless people showers, storage, laundry, mail service and help with jobs and housing. Shelter staff members hope that on cafe nights their clients don't feel like homeless people there for services or assistance."There are no labels," Frankel said. "They're just friends meeting for a cup of coffee."Alex Branch, 817-390-7689Twitter: @albranch1
How to help
To volunteer for the Cypress Street Cafe, call Jessica Grace at 817-288-0064.