Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Lights Came On

Thank you Jesus! The lights are on. About 8:00 PM tonight the lights came on and with them much needed heat. Our maintenance people quickly disconnected the generators that had worked nicely for several hours and hooked up the Louisville juice. This was a great relief as we feared that problems could easily occur with the portable generators.

We are still packed with people who are coming in out of the cold but now we are not having to expend so much energy and resources juggling people between two shelters. During the last two major power outages we have been lucky at the Men's Campus on Jefferson Street. Each time we never lost power at that location which allows us to use that kitchen to provide food for both shelters. People have told me that because the men's facility was formally a nursing home that it operates on a priority electrical grid. I am not sure the reason but it has been a blessing. The men's facility also has a backup generator that is wired into the building's mechanicals, just in case.

As we search for a new campus for our family and women one of our considerations is the availability of back up power. More often than not our services are critical and difficult to fully duplicate in other settings. We continue to ask God for direction in our decision making regarding a new campus.

Families Find Warmth in a Local Church's Fellowship Hall

Due to the lack of electricity and power in our family shelter, about 50 family members were transported to the warmth of the Fellowship Hall at Highland Baptist Church. Pastor Joe Phelps welcomed the Wayside group as they arrived on the Mission's bus this morning and directed them into the newly renovated room. He prayed with the families for God's help in this difficult situation. Later he secured videos for the children and played them on the church's projection screen. Mission personnel prepared lunch and the dinner at the Men's Jefferson Street Campus and transported it to the church and served the families. The families are expected to return to the shelter about 5:30 PM after several furnaces have been linked to the generators from the Louisville Coalition for the Homeless. They will likely stay in the shelter tonight if the generators can keep the furnaces running.

Electrical Outage Adds to the Problem

The phone rang at 5:30 AM with additional bad news. The electric is out on the entire block of East Market Street, the location of our family and women's facilities. To add fuel to the fire, a roof leak on the east side of the women's shelter is causing flooding in on the ground level where the men were staying. A sewer line stop up also occurred. We waited one hour to see if the electric would return before beginning plan "B". Finding that the electric was out in a wide portion of the city, we decided to move the women and families to the men's campus on Jefferson Street, at least until the electricity was repaired. We also called a nearby church, Highland Baptist, and the pastor agreed to meet our bus at the church and open up the fellowship hall for our families. Since Jefferson Street is so crowded, I hoped the church would allow us to use the space for the moms and kids and they did, thank God.

Marlene Gordon, director of the Coalition for the Homeless called about 7 AM and offered generators. It seems that three major shelters were affected by the power outage and the coalition asked us to pick up the 6 generators they have stored for just this type of situation and distribute them to two other facilities in addition to Wayside.

As it currently stands, our families (about 55 folks) just arrived at the church and are getting settled in the fellowship hall. About 80 single women are now in the dining room of the men's shelter and the men who were sleeping in the dining room are now sitting in chairs in the men's day room. We are packed. If the electric is not back on by 2 PM I will have our maintenance people direct wire the furnaces and lights to the generators so that the women and families can return to the shelter tonight to sleep.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mission Opens Second Overflow

It is 11:48 PM and one of the coldest and wettest nights of the winter. There is about 4 inches of snow on the ground and we are expecting more throughout the night. Many of the men that stay in our men's shelter are on mats because we have run out of beds. Men are lined up in the halls and into the lobby hoping to get a mat. The men are mostly calm and trying to do what is asked of them. A few are mentally ill and are agitated. Unfortunately the mentally ill homeless often have a difficult time coping with the crowded conditions that are found in shelters. However, everyone seems thankful just to have a place to stay tonight. Due to the number we are opening the 1st floor of our women's shelter on Market Street for additional overflow. A van is currently taking the first load of men over, and we expect to have about 25 men on mats sleeping on the floor in the women's dining room.

I spoke with a number of the men that would be staying on mats and they each remarked how grateful they were just to have a place to stay. Many had been in the cold during the day and were wet from the snow and freezing rain. One man who's wife is staying at the women's shelter said "I am so thankful I have a place to stay and I love my wife, she is at the women's mission".

I just received a call from our recovery manager, Virginia Taylor. Virginia is setting up the sleeping mats at the women's shelter for the 25 men that will be staying there tonight. We decided to set up a temporary canteen to include fresh water, cookies and chips. She is also setting up a TV in the area.

I spoke with Marlene Gordon the director of the Louisville Coalition for the Homeless and she reports that all shelters in the city are full and the only overflow that is available is the one we are opening in the dining room of the women's facility. Metro Louisville Police have been contacted and will be using that as a drop off site should they find others out in this weather.

Press Release - Mission Opens Second Overflow

For the first time ever, Wayside Christian Mission is opening up a SECOND overflow location, where the homeless coming in to escape the extreme weather and winter storm can sleep in warmth and safety. Since Operation White Flag has been in effect this winter, we have regularly slept up to 120 men on mats in the dining room and TV rooms at our 432 East Jefferson Street location. With the mats and all the beds, we have been housing between 500 and 595 men, women, and children nightly. Tonight, however, as the sleet continues to fall and with more snow and winter weather on the way, the homeless just keep coming to the doors. We have now opened up a second overflow area in the dining hall at 822 East Market Street, bringing to 145 the number of men on mats tonight. Marlene Gordon, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless, has reported that all of the shelters are full. Wayside Christian Mission is the only facility able to open additional overflow tonight and will be accepting additional persons from other shelters as well as police drop offs and more walk-ins. The Samaritan Patrol also scoured the camp areas, viaducts, and other known areas where the homeless attempt to stay out in extreme weather, offering a ride into the mission along with blankets, food, and coffee for those who refuse to seek shelter.

People in the community can help by dropping off blankets, pillows, twin sized sheets and pillowcases, gloves, and other warm clothing items. The Mission would also welcome donations of food items to help feed the extra people, or monetary donations to help offset increased costs of feeding, heating, showering, and laundry that the increased numbers will bring to the Mission. As always, volunteers are welcome to help with the need as well.