Today I received a call from a friend of mine to discuss responses to homelessness. He told me that on Friday the existing shelters in Rapid City only had 11 beds remaining as of 11 that morning. His church decided to become a homeless shelter. I was heading to Rapid later in the day to pick up supplies for our shelter operations (more on that in a little bit0 so, we arranged for me to stop in.
WOW! This church, Woyatan Lutheran, is living out the gospel in their actions. They chose to cancel worship so that the building could be used as a shelter. Their sanctuary was the dorm room that removed the chairs and placed cots in the room making it a sleeping room. The rest of the building is being used for feeding, relaxing and gatherings. This church chose being the church to the community around them rather than worrying about whether it would interfere with their ability to hold worship.
Closer to home we, working with partners, have taken over the operation of the homeless shelter in town. We have lowered the barrier to admittance. We are using my center as a day shelter to allow people a place to hang out during the day, to shower, do laundry and have a warm meal in a safe environment. Most of the funds we will use to pay salaries and provide the needed supplies and food will come from the grant that we received from the state to address homelessness on the reservation.
The goal is to provide the bandages needed to keep people alive, warm and safe. We cannot address the deeper underlying issues that people face if we do not help them address their basic needs. We are arranging partners who can help address the causes creating homelessness to work with those that want a way out. During my visit to Rapid CIty we talked about ways to work together to help the people. Many of the people served at Woyatan spend time on the reservation and often go back and forth.
The grant we received does allow us to help people find permanent homes. Unfortunately, there are no homes available on the reservation so many of the people we serve must relocate to border downs or to Rapid City. So far, my team has been able to help 7 families move into new homes. We are working with dozens more that are looking for a home.
Homelessness on the reservation is different than other places. In many homes there are multiple families living in a small home. It is not uncommon for 10-20 people to live in a 3-bedroom home. In other cases, homes are not safe or warm. There are traditionally homeless people who do not have a place to live. Many of these people do need support to help them overcome their issues, often addictions.
Our goal is to address the real issues but for now we need to keep people safe.