Thursday, August 31, 2006

Katrina Update - One Year Later

One year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast area, Wayside Christian Mission continues to house several evacuees and to provide encouragement and referrals to many others.  This summer, a large, extended family of nine made their way to Wayside Christian Mission.  They are seeking to resettle in Louisville.  Immediately after they lost everything to Katrina in Biloxi, Mississippi, they moved back to their original home of Mansfield, Ohio.  However, after several months of struggle, they heard there were good jobs in Louisville and arrived in July.  The father is already working construction, and the mother and a grown daughter are seeking employment.  They are also seeking safe housing for their families of small children.


Wayside Christian Mission held a picnic on the front lawn August 29th to mark the one year anniversary of Katrina.  It was a time of recognition for the tragedies they have endured and of hope for a better tomorrow.  Several families who had initially stayed at Wayside and who now have housing in Louisville returned to connect with others still in the shelter.  Wayside’s Down By The Wayside Choir sang several songs of hope and faith.  Everyone enjoyed a Kentucky menu which included several dishes prepared by one of our Katrina guests, Kittie Monson.  The evening was topped off with Kern’s Derby Pie and gift bags for all.


Earlier in the day, we received a phone call from one of our first Katrina families, Desiree Jones.  Many of our readers may recall seeing Desiree and her family on the news and in several print stories last fall.  Desiree and her sister, three brothers and her father, along with all their children, came to Louisville for refuge from the storm immediately following Katrina.  Eventually, Desiree, her husband Johnny, their daughter Victoria and Desiree’s father, Preston Steele, Sr., returned to New Orleans hoping to rebuild their home.  FEMA put a trailer out front for them to live in while the rebuilding began.  However, the task is so monumental that Desiree, Victoria and Preston all live in a home they purchased in McCombs, Mississippi, one and one-half hours away.  Johnny stays in the trailer and works his old job in New Orleans, working on the house when he can.  After spending exorbitant amounts of money to rewire the house and put up new drywall, there still is no electric service to the area.  None of the neighbors have returned.   Desiree requested prayer for their family as they try to rebuild.  They are so grateful for their stay at Wayside that they have become supporters of the Mission.


One of the most devastating outcomes of Katrina is the fact that so many families have been scattered across the nation.  Preston Steele, Jr., has tried three times to return to New Orleans with his family.  However, he remains haunted by the sounds of the children and people in the water crying for help, and cannot return there to live. 


At one point, Wayside Christian Mission served as safe refuge for over 175 men, women, and children displaced by the hurricane.  Through the generous support of the Louisville community, we not only provided clothing and needed items for all of these, who basically came with only the clothes on their backs, but we have also furnished forty complete homes for families staying in Louisville.  Many of these folks received crisis counseling, spiritual guidance, home-cooked meals, and even haircuts from the wonderful volunteers helping at Wayside.  Please remember all the men, women, and families displaced by the Hurricanes as they try to regain their lives.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Mission Sleep Over?

We are blessed with a number of wonderful volunteers.  For example, each Friday, Sherry, a volunteer beautician, comes to the Mission: Hair Salon and gives hair cuts to our men and women.  I am amazed that this talented woman, who could easily be working in a salon, sacrifices her Friday cutting homeless people’s hair.  In addition to being a good beautician she also is a Christian and will play Christian music while she is working on our clients.  We have a sign up list for the beauty shop and she is always booked two weeks in advance.  There are many opportunities for volunteering and being involved in the Mission’s ministry.  You may think you don’t have a special talent, like hairdressing, to share with the homeless.  However, oftentimes we just need some willing hands with time to share.


This weekend the women’s recovery program had a special activity: “a Mission Sleep Over”.  This may sound a little strange for a Mission but several weeks ago one of our staff took about 20 recovering men to Spring Mill State Park for an overnight camping trip.  This allowed the men to bond and to share about their recovery in a relaxed setting.  The women decided to have a complementary event, “a Mission Sleep Over”.  This past Friday about 50 women cooked their food on a barbecue grill, shared with each other how their recovery was progressing, and prayed for strength and wisdom to continue in a positive path.  They watched a movie together and went to sleep around 2 AM.  Our Recovery Program Manager, Virginia Taylor, bedded down with them in the recovery building on a hard wood floor.  The next day they got up at 6 AM and met again, sharing their concerns with one another.  Eyes filled with tears, many reported that this was a very encouraging time. 


Our Down By The Wayside Choir performed at Shiloh Baptist Church and St. John’s UCC on Sunday.  This has become an annual event at St. John’s UCC, where their members invited the choir to be a part of their annual picnic.  Virginia Taylor reported that the choir had a wonderful time performing at both churches and is always looking for good opportunities to share the Gospel and how God is helping its members recover from Alcohol and Drugs, which has, for many, been the root problem resulting in homelessness.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Full Moon...and Other Good News

Last night I realized that it was a full moon when a homeless man was released from a local hospital to the Mission via an ambulance.  It is common for us to accept newly released homeless patients; however this man did not need to be brought to a shelter.  When the ambulance arrived he was quickly carried in by the driver and his assistant and laid on a bench.  We were all in shock that this man in such poor medical and physical condition, had ended up at the Mission.  One of our case managers helped the man, gave him water and called Emergency Medical Services.  He was taken back to the hospital but this time our case manager stayed with him all night in the waiting room until he was formally admitted.  I am not a medical doctor but I rarely see men in such poor condition.  I can only hope that we can help others in his condition to have more appropriate discharge planning.


Another homeless man was laid to rest last week as volunteer Chaplain Earl Roth and Samaritan Patrol volunteer Kris Saylor assisted with a memorial service.  I remember the man well.  He deserved a proper service and the homeless community and others made sure he received one.


Good News!  Assistant ministers from Calvin Presbyterian Church, Pittsburg Pennsylvania, met with Virginia Taylor, the Mission Choir Director, and John Venson, her assistant, over the weekend to put the final touches on the choir’s new CD.  Calvin has been involved helping the Mission with many projects over the years and they have had the Choir up to their church and the local Christian School to perform and share the Gospel through music and about the destructiveness of drug and alcohol abuse.  It is great to see this type of cross country support.


On Wednesday evening August, 8th, the “Wellness Wednesday” Group (a program of We Survive) met and conducted a workshop.  Nearly 100 women from our family shelter, single women’s shelter and Safe Haven all met to hear the message.  The volunteers work under Sharon Cecil, one of the Mission’s volunteer coordinators.


On Saturday night we will be taking the children at Wayside Christian Mission shopping for school clothing and coats and putting together school supplies for their back packs.  School supplies have been generously donated by the community.  This week JCPS also supplied the kids with uniforms that are required at some schools. 


Our shelter remains full even though we are no longer under White Flag conditions.  Our Samaritan Patrol continues to travel the street each day looking for men and women who need a place to call home even if only for a short period of time. 


We are now preparing more emergency food than ever.  Today we ran completely out of canned vegetables and need help to build up a supply for each day and for the upcoming winter months.  It takes nine institutional size cans for each meal.


Our annual golf scramble is being planned for October 16th.  More information will be coming on this event which has proven to be a fun way to support the efforts of the Mission.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Progress on the Market Street Project is Needed

Over the weekend 11 family member from the Biloxi area arrived unexpectedly at the Mission.  They reported that they had been trying to stabilize since the Katrina disaster.  This is an extended family much like the many we served following the evacuation.  There is a grandmother, an uncle and several children with their mom and dad.  We are trying to find appropriate long term housing for them as I write this report. 


During the hot weather another large family of 10 showed up at our family facilities on Market Street.  Our shelter was full so we called other agencies in town to try and locate a room, but with no success.  Because we are in Operation White Flag we were able to let them sleep on the floor in the “Rainbow Room”, a small room on the first floor of the family shelter that is normally used as a play area for kids.


We continue to make good progress on the Market Street Project.  This week I met with the architect and engineers to begin the process of developing the mechanical drawings that will be needed before construction can begin.  It is a very exciting project and much needed as is evident by the above paragraphs.  We need more space for families and women in our community.  Our existing Market Street properties have served us well over the years but it is now time for a new building that will not only help to serve the needs of our women and children better, but that will be more efficient, safe and require less maintenance.


Tuesday evening we offered the “Gospel Hour” to our residents.  Normally this is offered the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month and we invite a community pastor to come and preach a sermon while the choir follows with Gospel music.  This informal service normally draws over a hundred clients.  This week, Lenny preached via a recorded tape.  Lenny is a long time supporter of the Mission who has often conducted chapel services for our clients.  Recently he has been diagnosed with cancer but had planned to be our speaker at this meeting.  Lenny was unable to come to the service but he made a recording of his message just before he had to go back to the hospital.  His heartfelt message was listened to by over one hundred Mission clients and our prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time.


A number of youth groups have also come to the Mission and worked on projects that needed urgent attention.  Some pulled weeds, painted curbs, and patted down asphalt.  The groups were spread between both shelters.  It is always a blessing to see young people performing ministry, especially when it involves front line work.