The Difference…

From Emily Norris, Augsburg Lutheran Church

“Will you call for me?”
“Will you ask them?”
“Will you go first?”

Walking alongside our homeless population in Winston-Salem, I have witnessed time and time again the discrepancy between how my requests for assistance and my friend’s are received. Whether it’s requesting an appointment for a mental health screening, setting up a bank account, asking for a job application, or reporting a stolen phone, the weight my presence holds verses theirs is absolutely astounding. Whether it’s my skin color, my gender, my appearance, or my sometimes sassy attitude, my ability to receive service is expedited by my apparent and inherent class. Just earlier this week, one of Winston’s kindest and most chronically homeless showed up at my office asking for assistance. He apologized repeatedly for his unannounced visit, as he no longer had a phone to call first. While I assured him any visit from him was a bright spot in my day, he could not be convinced otherwise. Ingrained deeply in his worth is the bitter reality that so often his presence in the community is not only dismissed, but is simply unwelcome. Through a Government assistance program, many homeless are gifted a phone with minutes that reload each month. Unfortunately my friend’s phone was recently stolen. After hearing his story and collecting the necessary information, I was able to locate a number for him to call and suspend service on the old phone while he waits 7-10 days for a replacement to be mailed to his (non existent) address. After 20 minutes on the phone with the provider, supplying all the necessary information, he was getting nowhere. Passing the phone to me in a last ditch attempt to problem solve, I was able to secure a replacement confirmation number and delivery date in less than 5 minutes. Ridiculous. I provided the same information. The same story. The same (church) address. The reality is that the difference between us is that I was simply not him.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

(picture credit, His Chosen Servants Outreach Ministry)

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INVITATION: CwD Partner Gala on 4/27

YOU are City With Dwellings!

Every person  — whether they served or donated, formed relationships with guests or prayed for them on their journey — is essential to who we are and the work we are doing to address the crisis of homelessness in our city. 

 
YOU ARE INVITED! Please also extend this invitation to your network  and circle of friends for our Partner Gala next Thursday evening.  A link for a PDF version for handouts or community bulletin-boards is at bottom of post.  We hope you, and your associates and friends, will join us as we honor the role everyone plays in realizing our vision of a city where all have a place to dwell in goodness!
 
 


Continuous, Transformative Relationships via Day Resource Center

From the Day Resource Center page: 

The City With Dwellings’ Day Resource Center (located at 633 W 4th St., Winston-Salem) is an inviting and hospitable place to stay in touch with our guests. Tuesday and Thursday from 9am to 11am, we continue the positive, grounding relationships that were started during the Overflow Shelter season. Our guests needs are always varied, and may include:

  • facilitate phone calls to doctors, governmental agencies, hospitals for records, etc.; or
  • provide a bus pass for a verified doctor’s or housing appointment, etc.; or
  • use of computers to apply for a job online; or
  • assist guests with fine-tuning their résumé; or
  • celebrate with them because they are gainfully employed, are housed, were reunited with loved-ones; and/or
  • a quick board-game while they wait; etc.

These two hours will quickly pass, and yet, these two hours can change the world. Your continued devotion to our guests and Winston-Salem now has a new outlet, signup today!

Click to View Volunteer Opportunities on SignUp.com

The End is Nigh (Sort of)

We are quickly approaching Friday night, March 31st, which will be the end of our shelter season, and our guests (and staff) have a couple of requests. Since the full-time shelters are full, our guests would love to have a dry, safe place to rest and call their own each night.  

Our guests need:

Waterproof Tarps

Sleeping Bag

Pop-up Tent

Prayer

Our Staff needs:

Bus passes, or donations specifically for bus passes*, for our guests to get to/from doctors’ appointments, housing interviews, job interviews, work, etc. Even though we close this week, we still see many of our guests on a regular basis.

Bus Pass

What’s Next?

  • Drop off donations during daylight hours at Anthony’s Plot, 2323 Sunnyside Av. There is a newborn in the house, please leave your generous donation on the porch (with a card so we can thank you), or put monetary donations through the mail slot in the door. Please DO NOT ring the doorbell.
  • Want to donate online? Use link above or here*.
  • Call Lea Thullbery during business hours with any questions you may have at 336-918-7981.

*  Financial services freely provided by Trinity Moravian Church

A Bag of Chips

I can’t get this image out of my mind.  This week Centenary UMC’s church property had a break in at 2:30AM which was caught on video surveillance.  The man broke in to our property and went to a kitchenette and took a small bag of Doritos, stood there and ate them and then left.  He was in our property for a total of 4 minutes.  Walked right past other items of value and ignored them completely.  A bag of chips.

It breaks my heart.  Yes, it is highly annoying to have to clean up a mess and deal with the inconvenience of damage to property.  Yes, it is frustrating to be a place that offers help and good will to people and then feel violated by intrusion.  I didn’t recognize the picture of the person that broke in and I certainly don’t know his story.  But it breaks my heart that he went through that much effort for a bag of chips.

It is a stark reminder to me that we have much work to do in our community regarding poverty, homelessness, hunger, mental illness and addiction.  I realize just writing this blog runs the risk of putting some folks in my church in an uncomfortable position of tension with anyone who would choose to damage our property and the ministry we offer.  It makes some folks leery of taking the risk of doing the hard work of reaching out to some of the least of these.  But I can’t get the image of the bag of chips out of my mind.

And I stand by the conviction that as a church, we have to find a way to stand in solidarity and loving partnership with Jesus’s Gospel mandate.  We are to be about Matthew 25 kind of ministry that feeds the hungry, clothes the poor, visits the imprisoned and sick, and welcomes the stranger.  In spite of the fact that it comes with a risk.  In spite of the fact that it is hard work.  In spite of the fact that it sometimes is not necessarily well received by the recipient. In spite of the fact that it comes at a cost.  We do it for the Gospel of Jesus.  We do it because we love one another.

“Then the king [Jesus] will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” ~Matthew 25:40 (CEB)

I long for the day when no one has to break a window for a bag of chips. When everyone has enough.  When we figure out how to solve what I believe are solvable (albeit not easy) problems like hunger and housing.  I guess what I’m saying is that I long for God’s Kingdom to come.  On earth as it is in heaven.  And until that day comes, I will do everything in my power to usher in that Kingdom.  Will you join me?

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

MoM Guest Post: Seeking Shelter

By Kelly Hines

In January 2014 Katie Bryant, the Minister of Children & Outreach at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, stood before our congregation and told us that our fellowship hall was about to become an overflow homeless shelter for the city of Winston-Salem. After the meeting, I went up to her and simply said, “I don’t know what I can do, but I want to help.”

I have never been particularly called to help the homeless. Those without homes, those standing on street corners asking for money, have always existed outside my periphery. I’d become an expert at avoiding eye contact, dodging questions from my children, and stifling any guilt I had about drinking that $4 latte. So what was it now that made me feel called to action?

“Oh, mom. They’re just people.”

I asked myself that same question a couple of weeks later, when I stood next to my teenaged daughter, getting ready to serve dinner to the twenty homeless guests that would be staying with us that night. “I’m nervous,” she said. I didn’t say so, but I felt the same way. Twenty men and women shuffled in after turning in all their worldly possessions at the door. They laid donated blankets and paper thin pillows on worn mats. They made their beds with care, exchanged banter with each other, then made their way to the food.

“Ma’am, that looks so good.”
“God bless you, that looks warm and I am so cold.”
“Thank you for opening your church.”
“Thank you for this meal.”
“Thank you.”

My daughter turned to me and had tears in her eyes. “Oh, mom. They’re just people.”

That’s when I knew what forced me into this uncomfortable place, to do things I’d never done before. Because these are people; human beings in need of help and deserving of love and respect. People who have lost so much of their dignity, and we have the opportunity to give a little of it back through a warm meal and a safe bed and a listening ear. Love is powerful stuff.

Treating homelessness is wonderful, but ending it is even better.

So are socks. Imagine, if you can, walking miles every day in the same socks you wore yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. Imagine, if you can, the indignity of being a menstruating woman with very limited options on public restrooms, and nothing to use if you can find one open to you. Imagine, if you can, standing outside in the wind and cold every day and not being able to reach into your pocket and grab a tube of chapstick. These are simple things, but they are luxuries to our homeless friends.

the year round shelters, which simply cannot accommodate everyone who needs someplace warm during the cold winter nights

So is real, concrete help. Mental health and addiction services. People trained to navigate the systems to help our guests find jobs and get housed. Treating homelessness is wonderful, but ending it is even better.

On December 1, St. Timothy’s, along with several other area churches, once again opened to serve as overflow shelters for Winston-Salem. They operate in addition to the year round shelters, which simply cannot accommodate everyone who needs someplace warm during the cold winter nights.

Here’s what homelessness looks like in your community:

  • ~ In Guilford County, approximately 897 people (including 174 children) experience homelessness on any given night. The third highest by county rate in the state.
  • ~ In Forsyth County, approximately 515 people (including 64 children) experience homelessness on any given night. The seventh highest by county rate in the state.

Here’s how you can help: 

  • ~ In Guilford County, check out Partners Ending Homelessness, a coalition of organization dedicated to ending homelessness.
  • ~ In Forsyth County, check out City With Dwellings, a cooperative which operates Winston-Salem’s winter overflow shelter program.

Additionally, you can visit the city government pages to find out what your city is doing to help it’s most vulnerable citizens:

Original post appeared on Triad Moms on Main

St. Timothy’s Shelter Updates

We are more than halfway through the Overflow Shelter season! 

You all have been amazing as you have stepped up to make sure that all of our volunteer roles are covered each night.

Children have decorated place-mats and snack bags to bring cheer to our guests.

 Some of you come weekly to help with check-in, and a few of you overnight at least once a week.  One of you wakes up early two mornings a week to drive our guests back downtown, while another helps with nighttime transportation.  A few of you with organizational skills have gifted the shelter with some order.  Our children and youth have help clean and reset the shelter around (and as a part of) their activities.  Children have decorated place-mats and snack bags to bring cheer to our guests.  THANK YOU ALL!!!  Our overflow shelter simply could not operate without all of our volunteers sharing their time and talents with our guests. 

We are always in need of women’s underwear (sizes 6-10) and financial donations to cover costs like bus passes and prescription medications for our guests.

If you’ve missed out on this important ministry of our church this winter–there is still time left to serve!  You can sign up and learn more. 

If you’d like to give in other ways, we are always in need of women’s underwear (sizes 6-10) and financial donations to cover costs like bus passes and prescription medications for our guests.  If you have a special talent you can share, or you’re not quite sure how you can be a part of this ministry of hospitality–please talk to me (sw.sy1500906970htomi1500906970tts@e1500906970itak1500906970).  There is a place for all at the Overflow Shelter–and you are no exception! 


Thanks for your faithfulness in serving WSNC’s most vulnerable women each night,
Katie Bryant, Minister of Children & Outreach at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church

Snowed In

In my 20 years working in the Church, I used to always look forward to January and February. Specifically, the time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday represented a slower time in the church, ordinary time, if you will, in a vocation that each day presents as anything but ordinary. I love my work especially because every single day is different–one never knows what each day holds, who will call, what will happen, where God’s handiwork will be revealed. But after the marathon of Advent and Christmas, “ordinary” sounds very, very good. The rhythm of looking forward to the “ordinary” has helped me give my best during Advent and Christmas–knowing that rest would come after Epiphany.

townnews.com / journalnow.com

I enjoyed this sense of “ordinary” down-time in my work until 3 years ago when we opened a winter emergency Overflow Shelter at St.Timothy’s. This past weekend, Epiphany came and went, along with our first big winter storm of the year (and hopefully the only one!). I’ve been battling a bad cold for the past two weeks and have longed for a day to stay home in my pajamas, sleep in, and feel better. With the storm coming and making frantic plans to keep our guests safe–I secretly prayed for a snow day–to be snowed in so I could rest. While my family was “snowed-in” on Saturday, I spent much of the day on the phone with homeless guests hearing how they had no place safe to stay warm. We worked to make plans to get the guests shuttled from downtown to St.Tim’s on Saturday night, and to keep them at St.Tim’s through the day on Sunday.

Sunday morning I showed up to Drake Hall ready for a marathon shift of keeping our guests warm, happy, and safe. I anticipated lots of anxiety from changing up their regular routine, but instead found our guests breathing a big sigh of relief.  Sunday was the first day of only God knows how many days that our guests weren’t worried about where they would be during the day. The daily worries of “will I be safe?”, “will I be welcomed?”, ” how long can I stay until I’m told to move on?”, “where do I go next?”, “is there room for me here?”, “what if he finds me?”–those worries and more got to take a day off. This past Sunday and Monday, we kept our shelter open all day. Our women were “snowed-in” at “home.”

One of our guests shared with me that Sunday was the first day in years that she was able to relax in her pajamas all day long.

The guests were almost giddy at things we take for granted–all day access to a restroom, wifi, movies and Netflix, coffee all day, welcome and a place to be. Wonderful volunteers came together on a moment’s notice and made time and space in their own snow days to make this happen.

Spending time with our guests while they are relaxed, well-rested, and enjoying life is indeed a gift. Laughing with our guests, playing games, even sharing Godly Play stories with them while they have lowered their survival defenses–these are holy moments. While I wish we could make “snow days” possible for them everyday–we don’t have the energy or volunteers to run a 24/7 shelter for the long haul. Our two-day sheltering speaks to the real needs to have safe and welcoming spaces for our homeless guests to be during the daytime in our city.

Our guests need a place where they are always welcome, where they can relax and be known at their best (and their worst–just as they are), where they can work on their hopes and dreams with people who can hope and dream with them.

Be careful what you pray for. Thanks to our overflow shelter guests–“snowed in” takes on a new meaning this Epiphany. No more ordinary time for me, or St.Tim’s–God has transformed our time into something extraordinary and new each day. Thanks be to God!

If you missed out on the marathon sheltering weekend–there are still plenty of ways to serve our guests this Overflow Season.

Come and be a part of the extraordinary ways God is at work,
Katie Bryant, Minister of Children and Outreach at St.Timothy’s Episcopal Church

35 & Counting Sheep—A View from Advent

One of my favorite Godly Play stories is the “Holy Family”. It’s a simple story, really, but is told in such a way that one might reconsider any preconceived notions of the nativity. Hand-carved, wooden nativity figures are set out in classic form and the children are reminded of fragile nativities that they may have seen elsewhere. “Don’t touch it! It might break!”, they may hear when approaching grandma’s special heirloom nativity, however, in Godly Play, they are assured: “This nativity is for you”. The characters of the nativity are introduced—meet Mary, Joseph, the donkey who helped pregnant Mary get to Bethlehem, and the cow who was surprised to find a baby in his feed dish. The story continues with an introduction of the shepherds, who heard angels singing and were afraid, and their sheep.

The Godly Play set only includes 3 sheep, but the story is good to remind us that though our set has one shepherd and three sheep—there were likely a number of shepherds with many, many sheep. The storyteller explains to the children that the one shepherd and three sheep represent the many who may have journeyed to Bethlehem to see the mystery that happened. Some children begin to wonder about the numbers of cows, donkeys, and otherwise in the nativity. Other children don’t skip a beat and want to hear about the wise men. My mind goes to the endless numbers of sheep being lead towards the Christ Child—I can picture the hillsides covered with woolly, bleating animals. Because we don’t have enough room in our houses for all the sheep that may have been at the nativity, we use just a few to represent the many. I wonder how many of the sheep actually found their way to see Jesus?

This past Advent was all about sheltering at St.Tim’s. The shelter story is also a simple story—winter is cold, people need a warm place to rest at night, we have a nice warm building, so we open it up for our guests. People often ask me how many people our shelter will hold. Emergency shelters by code can host 20 guests per night. As of today, we have not had more than 16 guests on any one night at our Overflow Shelter this season. Our numbers are down this year, thankfully, possibly because we have worked endlessly to move some of our long-term guests into permanent supportive housing. Some guests who have stayed with us in years past are now asking how they can help us with volunteering—because they now have keys to their own place and a roof over their heads. Other guests who have stayed with us in years past are still with us—as guests, another season without housing of their own. Our shelter is “home” for them for this moment—because all other notions of “home” have fallen through. Since December 1st, we have sheltered 35 unique women (some have stayed many nights, others have only stayed a night or two.)

The shelter story is a simple story—winter is cold, people need a warm place to rest at night, we have a nice warm building, so we open it up for our guests.

These women haven’t all shown up at one time—like the nativity sheep, they come in smaller groups but represent the many women in Winston-Salem with no place to call “home.” These women are someone’s daughters, someone’s sisters, someone’s mothers, someone’s friends—and they are our guests. We welcome them in each night—as many as show up—and make room for each guest. We get to know their names, their stories, and begin to share our lives together. Our guests become not simply one more number to add to the reports, not simply one more sheep—but very much a part of the story of this mystery that is happening at St.Timothy’s.

God is at work, here and now. Come and see!
Katie Bryant, Minister of Children and Outreach at St.Timothy’s Episcopal Church