Abraham Jackson and his wife, Martha Jackson, lost their 28-year-old son, Aron Jackson, about a year ago to natural causes.

Now, Aron is memorialized in nonprofit homeless outreach organization When We Love’s new “Hope is Alive” mural.

“It’s a huge honor,” Abraham Jackson said. “It’s bittersweet because I’d rather have my son, you know, not just a picture of him. But, just looking at it can put a smile on your face, and it’s heartwarming.”

The Jackson have been volunteering with and donating to the organization for three years.

When We Love is an all-volunteer-led nonprofit organization founded in 2009 that serves as a bridge between homelessness and residency. The group’s Transfer Center, 1100 E. Lancaster Ave., houses 10 organizations that help homeless people in housing, addiction rehabilitation and prevention, fatherhood classes, religious resources and access to health resources.

“The west side of our building was just white and was showing wear. It faces that major bridge on I-35. So, it can be seen from all of those freeways,” Gary Wilkerson, CEO of When We Love, said. “It’s got a message of hope. It’s got interlocking hands and somebody helping someone else. It’s just become this big community project.”

Part of the nonprofit’s mission is to “change lives not enable” homeless people by handing them everything they need, he added.

Tarrant County Homeless Coalition reported about 1,230 homeless people live in the county. However, the number represents only the total number of homeless people counted during the annual Point in Time Count.

The coalition’s Point-in-Time Count was conducted over a two-week period from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11, 2021. Street outreach teams asked people where they slept on the night of Jan. 28 and asked them about their experiences.

“I think a lot of people have a misconception about the homeless that they’re all on drugs or they’re all lazy — that they don’t want to work, and some of them might be that way, but I think a lot of them are schizophrenic or they’re bipolar or they’re addicted somehow,” Abraham Jackson said. “And they burned all their bridges, and they have nowhere else to go. I think it’s incumbent on us to help out with what we can.”

When We Love serves as a “gap filler.” The organization catches homeless people who “fall through the cracks,” Wilkerson said.

In 2020, the volunteer-led nonprofit served about 100,000 meals to homeless people and clocked in $285,000 worth of volunteer hours or 11,875 hours at $24 per hour.

“When people donate to When We Love, you know, the one thing they can be assured of is that all their money goes into programs and services — it’s all going to the people,” Wilkerson said. “It’s not paying my salary, it’s not paying somebody else’s salary and it’s not paying for our benefits.”

About 1,000 people volunteer with the nonprofit yearly, but that number changes every year depending on which ministries, churches, schools or residents decide to send people.

When We Love Transfer Center volunteer Tracey Shehan works as the warehouse manager. She is in charge of moving furniture and supplies to newly-housed homeless residents. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

When We Love Transfer Center Warehouse Manager Tracey Shehan has been working at the nonprofit for nearly two years — she’s the “Warehouse Boss Lady.”

“We deliver and pick up donations,” Shehan said. “The homeless that just got off the street will put in a request form and we will fill it.”

The “Hope is Alive” mural, painted by artist Erica Rosa, will be one of many initiatives the organization takes to uplift and brighten the area.

“My passion is to unite people and encourage them through creativity and art,” Rosa said.

The mural was completed on Dec. 1. It can be seen from Interstate 35 and Interstate 30.

“These people have dignity — just because they’re homeless doesn’t mean people can crap on them,” Abraham Jackson said. “They should be treated just as valuable as anybody else.”

The “Hope is Alive” mural at the When We Love Transfer Center, 1100 E. Lancaster Ave., faces a tent city of homeless people. The mural has about 150 people’s hand prints painted on it; the goal is to get 300 people. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSoto

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. He can be reached at cristian.arguetasoto@fortworthreport.org or (817) 317-6991.

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