Loving the Homeless in a Pandemic: Pt. 1

Dear All Angels’ Family,

Over the last week, I have been grateful for the way our world has collectively made wise decisions to keep us safe and healthy during these times. I have also been deeply burdened by the effects of these decisions on the homeless community. And I have grieved that out of all the regulations and protocols our city has made to protect various populations, you would be hard pressed to hear our lawmakers make mention of the homeless.

Shelters and drop-in centers are already crowded, poorly maintained, and under resourced. With public spaces in which the homeless once found refuge for shelter, showers, and bathrooms–such as movie theaters, gyms, McDonalds, libraries, emergency rooms, shopping malls–all closing down, those in our community are pushing their way into those same crowded drop-in centers to get their basic needs met. At the same time, restaurants close and food donations slow down. Friendly passersby no longer walk the streets. Volunteers at nonprofits tag out. Programs close. Resources become limited. Our community wanders from street to street looking for any place that may be open where they can get their needs met.

For more, read here: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/poverty/news/2020/03/18/481958/lawmakers-must-include-homeless-individuals-families-coronavirus-responses/

And here:

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/coronavirus-homeless-risk-ways-stop-spread-wildfire/story?id=69505076

I say “our community” because many of the people that are experiencing the pandemic in this unique way truly are a part of our All Angel’s community. You know some of them by name. You have had heartfelt conversations with them. You’ve shared worship with them. You’ve loved them and supported them and provided for them.

As of this writing, All Angels’ has remained committed to providing direct services to our homeless friends throughout the pandemic. The Pathways drop-in program (Tuesday/Thursday), Respite Shelter (Sunday), and Meals programs (Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday) have remained in operation, with daily modifications as needed. We have taken a proactive and assertive approach to ensure the safety and well-being of participants, staff, and volunteers.

  • Starting Sunday, March 15th, we began to limit congregating at our meals programs. For the Community Dinner and Pathways programs, we offered takeaway meals, still hot and home-cooked. We also limited our shelter capacity to 20 men and 10 women. 
  • On Tuesday, March 17th, we offered basic services at Pathways. This included medical and psychiatric appointments, showers, and meals (takeaway only). All wellness activities were suspended. 
  • On March 19th, we suspended our shower program.
  • All guests allowed indoors were screened for virus symptoms by the Institute for Family Health. 

Each day, we have been faced with difficult decisions regarding which services are absolutely essential at this time, and which services we could realistically offer to our guests. Through our robust shelter, drop-in, and meals programs, guests have always exclaimed that “All Angels’ does so much!” to meet the needs of the homeless community. This week, with limited staff and volunteer capacity, city regulations, and safe and healthy hygiene and “social distancing” practices, we have done all we can to offer services in a safe yet hospitable manner. Some things worked well. Others were more challenging to pull off. In either case, we saw ear-to-ear smiles of gratitude from guests whose teeth we rarely see.

We are so appreciative of the incredible commitment our volunteers have offered this week. Emails, texts, and prayers from the larger All Angels’ family have been greatly encouraging (even if yet unanswered!). We will continue to send e-blasts and post on our blog and social media outlets to share updates specific to Community Ministries as they arise. We don’t know what our ministry to the homeless will look like next week, or even tomorrow. But we are fearlessly committed to being present with our homeless brothers and sisters during this time. 

Thank you for being present with us.

Peace be with you. 

Chelsea Horvath, Director of Community Ministries

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