ACUTE WEATHER EMERGENCY SHELTER
For most of us on the Street Ministry staff,” shared Steve (pictured above right), “we know what it’s like to sleep out on the streets because we have been homeless.” He doesn’t remember temperatures getting as cold as they have been lately, even when he was homeless just seven years ago. He did recall a time when a friend insisted he come and stay with him when the temperatures dipped below freezing and there was snow on the ground – “I was blessed,” said Steve.
When Executive Director Loren “Skip” Steffen asked Steve and other Street Ministry Staff if they would be interested in opening a Cold Weather Emergency Shelter at the Mission, everyone was onboard. Steffen and Facilities Director, Cody Howard, had talked years before about providing an Acute Weather Emergency Shelter, but the time wasn’t right. “This year with the opening of the new dining space, there was increased floor space, and an impervious floor surface,” shared Steffen.
Although Howard says there are a number of cold weather shelters available, they don’t begin to meet the need. “I don’t want to turn anyone away, but we can only take as many as 61 people,” says Howard who oversees the shelter. “We are opening the Mission when daytime high is 36 degrees or below. Our doors are open at 8pm. Lights are off at 9pm, with everyone up at 5am and out by 5:30am.” The shelter quickly transforms back into a dining hall for the 6:30am breakfast.
Men and women sleep in separate areas. When clients check in, they are given a sleeping bag or blanket and a mat from the staff, and volunteers help to get them settled in. During the night, volunteers and staff take shifts checking on everyone. Ellie, a staff member, shared that sometimes there are late stragglers. “One man who had just been released from jail with nothing showed up at 3am; and we brought him into the shelter so he could get some rest.”
Sometimes there are moments that the staff chuckle about. Steve recalled the “roller.” “We had a guy who (in his sleep) rolled all over the floor. He started at one end and ended up at the far end of the room.” Steve said it was pretty funny to watch.
The staff was surprised on the first evening the shelter was opened. Folks came in and quickly settled down and almost everyone was asleep by the time the lights went out at 9pm.
One thing is evident, those that are coming to the shelter are very thankful. “One woman came to me,” says Howard, “and she was so appreciative and felt so safe here. She knew she would come and be in an all-women’s section and watched over all evening long.” Howard also said, “Most of the guys have expressed their appreciation, too. They don’t like being so close together, but it’s warm and they know it’s safe.”
Steffen says, “It’s the team [staff] that makes this project a success, and I am extremely grateful. We are able to provide a place for people to go during life-threatening weather.” Howard testifies, “anything to further the kingdom and help God’s children, I’m all for – All is well with my soul.”
“I felt safe at the Mission’s shelter and fell immediately to sleep and didn’t want to wake up in the morning. It was warm and dry here.”
~ Rachael (pictured above center)
The Mission opens the emergency shelter when daytime weather high is 36° or below.
8PM DOORS OPEN
There wasn’t much time to prepare and have adequate items for the new shelter, so if you would like to help, here is the list of needs:
Nylon 400 sleeping bags
½ inch camping mats