Saturday, August 18, 2012

Presbyterian Night Shelter

This morning our family had the privilege of serving at one of our local homeless shelters...The Presbyterian Night Shelter.

The largest provider of services for the homeless, Presbyterian Night Shelter is the only free area emergency shelter without length-of-stay restrictions. The Shelter believes in respecting the dignity of its clients, while supplying meals, beds and basic human care to an average of 704 homeless men, women and children every night and approximately 3,040 annually.
The Shelter provides hope to its clients and is working to end homelessness.

We served in the women and children's section...The Lowden-Schutts building.  Here is our experience....

We were approached by a women {Skinny Gina} in our Sunday School class a few weeks ago about serving at a local shelter.  She wanted to have a "Back to School" party....pools, sprinklers, a bounce house, hot dogs, cookies, popsicles and lots of fun!!  Gina's heart was very tender to these women and their plight...a lot of whom were fleeing from domestic abuse.  I was more than happy to help.  She told us it would be safe, but we probably shouldn't bring the two littles.

Fast forward to today....we dropped the littles off with Grandma and Grandpa and headed for the shelter.  As you can guess the shelter was NOT in a nice part of town.  By not nice I mean...VERY scary.  I have been on this road before...we will call it Homeless Drive....and the farther down this road we drove the worse I felt.  I didn't want to keep going.  I wanted Joey to turn around and go back to our safe little cozy streets and  never come this way again.  I had immense trepidation when we pulled into the shelter parking lot.  But I just prayed the Lord would be with me each step.  We had to cross a street filled with men and women to get to the gated area we would be in.  We had a group of about 4 men, 8 women and 11 kids.  We unloaded all our cars and began setting up.  We had a brief meeting about interacting with the people...Rule 1 NO pictures {hence the lack of photos in this post}, Rule 2 no picking kids up that were big enough to walk, Rule 3 side hugs ONLY.

Once all our fun water stations were set up the women and children started gathering around to play.  For the most part the people were happy, curious and talkative.  But there were a few ladies that I could clearly tell were angry at life, they cussed like sailors and yelled at their children. The women were gathered in their own cliques, talking, fixing each other's hair, smoking cigarettes and checking their cell phones.  Some littles ran around unattended, playing in puddles of water {in their footed pjs}, while other kids were watched closely by their mommas.  God calmed my heart with every second I was there.  I could feel my heart soften for these hurting people....but I prayed I wouldn't break down in tears in front of them.

All of our workers did an AMAZING job interacting with the kids and women!!  It was awesome to see the smiles of the kids when a worker would pay attention to them!

I was honored to work in the kitchen...and I mean honored.  I truly felt like I was making a difference.  I was serving them...serving others.  And oh my goodness it felt incredible to feed and serve all these people!!!  We fixed about 200 hot dogs, went through 10 bags of chips and a million cookies!!  AND they had popsicles later!  We had to follow strict health codes...gloves, a hairnet {ME ONLY}, no trash cans in the kitchen...and then the director had specific directions for us.  It was too detailed to go into, but needless to say it was work.  But what I wanted to share was what I saw while putting plates together.  I happened to be working at a window...which led to the street...which was FULL of homeless people.  Oh how my heart ached for them.  During my brief stares I saw a man pass by, pick up an old Bic lighter, test it and then throw it back in the street....I saw a woman dressed from head to toe in red white and blue wave a flag constantly, I saw a worker from somewhere talking with some of the men and women, and I saw what looked like ONE good samaritan pull up and hand out cold cokes out of his trunk.  I just tried to take it all in...

After everyone was fed and seated our sweet K brought a short message from the Bible.  She was fighting Satan to be heard...through hardened hearts and loud kids she pressed on.  It was an amazing lesson and I know she touched the hearts of those women!!  I was fighting back tears!!

As we started packing up, Gina brought in a bunch of clothes our group was donating to the shelter.  With each load we took back to the cars we passed the women going through the bags of was incredible!!  I wish I could have just sat there and watched them....they were SO happy!  Again...I was fighting back those tears.  I wanted so badly to run home and empty my closets!  I don't think I will ever donate clothes to Goodwill again...ever.  I will bring them down to this shelter.

We had an amazing time...I would be thrilled to do this again....maybe during Christmas!!  Thank you Lord for letting us be a part of such a wonderful event!!

Hope you are having a great weekend! :)  

1 comment:

  1. Sweet friend--your tender heart is one of my favorite things about you. I'm so glad you were touched. Let's donate clothes together this year!