Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Congregations For The Homeless – A Return to Humanity

You come home from work, take a shower, and are refreshed by the feel of clean skin. Sitting down to a warm meal, you are comforted by a satisfied belly. As the night closes in, you lay your head down, and feel safe between four walls and a roof.

Sadly, not all men are as lucky.

Congregations For The Homeless was founded in 1994 as a crash shelter. It has grown into a transition-to-housing shelter for single, eastside, homeless men. This building-less shelter resides in 12 eastside churches, one per month, Monday through Friday. As one of the original churches, St. Thomas continues to house the shelter during July.

Qualifying for the shelter requires the men not to use drugs or alcohol. They cannot have a felony conviction and have to pass a background check. After their first 30 days, the men must make a commitment to stay or leave. Once they’ve committed, they’re assigned a Life Coach. This person helps them find a job, get into school or receive disability benefits, if applicable.

The volunteer group at St. Thomas has evolved into a rich team, which provides a model of cohesiveness for those at the shelter. Often these men are on the street by themselves, living an isolated life. Parishioner and organizer of the St. Thomas shelter, Beth Zobel, recounted a man saying, “I feel like an animal. I forget I’m human.” Being treated with respect and dignity at the shelter helps these displaced men re-enter society.

The shelter provides three meals daily, a place to sleep and a shower. As not all churches are equipped with showers, Congregations For The Homeless has a mobile shower they bring on site. Unfortunately, this is not without its problems, caused by the faulty equipment of the mobile shower.

In addition, our old and overtaxed kitchen equipment broke down in some recent heat waves. The refrigeration units couldn’t match its demands, and the shelter faced the threat of losing expensive food. Thankfully, the St. Thomas School graciously agreed to share its kitchen space.

Zobel is excited about the New Parish Life center. The building will give the men a proper shower, provide a separate space for snoring sleepers, and grant all residence greater sense of privacy. An updated kitchen will ensure donated food doesn’t spoil. Through our on campus mission work, men are reminded they are children of God, as they continue to be treated with grace and humanity.

by Mikaela Cowles

1 comment:

  1. Bob, what noble persons, these volunteers! God bless them.

    One can't help but notice the rise in the number of churches, agencies, etc. with a mission to help the homeless. I think we need to be vigilant lest homelessness be enabled and institutionalized.

    As the public sector continues to encroach on the private and converts productive employment to parasitic government "employment", I suspect we will continue to see a continued rapid growth in homelessness. Therefor, we need to discourage the former and promote the latter to get job creation back on track.

    As Johnson's "Great Society" institutionalized welfare, I am concerned that we be on the look out for agencies which, while well intended, may tend to institutionalize homelessness. I would suggest that before we participate in, or support, such efforts we should try to discern if government money or government "workers" are involved. In my view, this is the most telling sign that the agency will likely have a destructive effect on the people it purports to help.

    While it is apparent that the volunteers from St. Thomas are living into our Christian ideal, as the number of efforts to help the homeless arise, I think it important to discourage the ones which have ties and funding from a government that thrives on its own growth, no matter how destructive it may become to our society.


    Steve S.