The News & Record did a story on the financially struggling Joseph’s House, a homeless shelter which serves young men 18-21 — a particularly vulnerable group. The headline reads, “Greensboro’s shelter for teenage boys, young men trying to stay open.” That’s followed by a few sentences introducing one of the residents, but the rest of the story is hidden behind the paywall. That means that homeless advocates (like me) can’t use social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to link to the full story, which actually tells what’s happening and what Joseph’s House needs. Why do a story on a homeless shelter that needs help from the public and then hide it from the public? Bad call, New & Record. Please rescue this story from behind the paywall so that more people can see it and help Joseph’s House help more young homeless men in Greensboro!!
- April 21, 2012
I just got a call from a homeless woman who has no place to go. Last night, she slept in a parking garage downtown. She had no sleeping bag. No blankets. She was cold. Temperatures were in the 50′s last night. Concrete makes a cold, hard bed.
The women’s winter shelter closed at the end of March. The Greensboro Urban Ministry shelter is full. She’s applied to the Salvation Army’s shelter program, but hasn’t gotten in there, either. There are no other shelters in Greensboro.
A nurse at the IRC (a friend of mine) suggested she call me. Our StreetWatch ministry provides tents and sleeping bags for homeless people who sleep outside. She asked me for blankets and she wanted to know where would be a safe location for her to sleep? And quite honestly, I didn’t know what to tell her.
I’ve had so many calls lately about homeless women on the street in Greensboro. They all need someplace to stay. I get calls from the homeless women themselves, calls from police officers, calls from homeless service providers. The shelters are full, what are the options? Well, not many that I know of.
There are women’s shelters in other towns nearby, but that’s not an option for many of these women, for various reasons. I’ve suggested to all of them that they go to the IRC, which has a housing program, but what I hear back is that unless they have an income, there’s no housing available. (Makes sense and I knew that, but I remain hopeful that someone will have housing vouchers!)
Most of the homeless women who sleep outside have a boyfriend or husband. If they weren’t with a partner when they became homeless, they find one quickly. I hear from many women that companionship and safety are very important when you live on the street. A woman living outside alone is much more vulnerable.
I’m not sure what to tell the lady who called me today. There are two tent cities within walking distance of downtown, but neither has single women living there and at both places, the residents have a voice in who joins their community, so there’s no guarantee that either will be the right fit for her. I’m not sure if she’d prefer community life or a place to herself. And it’s not always easy to find a safe, legal place to camp. (Property owners have given permission for homeless people to camp on the land where the tent cities are located.)
I’m about to go to the StreetWatch storage unit to pick up blankets and a sleeping bag and go find this lady. I still don’t know where she’ll sleep tonight. Another homeless woman sleeping outside in Greensboro. That’s messed up. We need a women’s shelter. Well, we need more shelter space for homeless people, period. But women, especially, do not need to be living outside. And women living alone on the street? That should just never, ever happen.
- April 2, 2012
Yesterday morning, I sat alone in my car before church, thinking about all the homeless people who were back on the street now that the winter shelters had closed a few hours earlier. Eventually, I looked out my car window and saw a man sitting alone on the stage in front of the church, peacefully enjoying the beautiful spring morning, and I had a sudden urge to join him. I walked across the lawn, sat down and introduced myself. We began to talk.
I told him that my heart was heavy about the closing of the winter shelters for the homeless. I told him I’d been at the women’s winter shelter the night before and talked to women who were leaving the shelter without a permanent place to go. Their faces and their stories were fresh on my mind this morning. And moments earlier, on my way to church, I’d driven past the soup kitchen and seen a man carrying a duffel bag, as well as a full trash bag slung over his shoulder. It seemed likely that he was among those who had stayed in a winter shelter, and was now carrying all of his belongings with him, with no place to go. I’d also talked to the guys at the tent city that morning and was planning to take food and other necessities to them after church. They’d had three new residents come in even before the shelters closed, and they expected more. Adding to my concern was the recent spate of bridge and camp cleanups by the City and private property owners. Where will people go, I wondered? My worry and anxiety were evident in my words.
The gentleman sitting beside me listened in silence. There was a quiet pause after I finished speaking, as if he were carefully considering my words and his response. And then he said, “You remind me of someone. I used to be out there. And one day, when I was sleeping, a woman came and ‘tap, tap, tap’, knocked and woke me up and asked, ‘Are you hungry?’ And then she prayed for me. And she came back, with her father, this time. And she prayed for me again. And not two weeks later, a man came by and offered me a room in a place that I could afford. And I’ve been there ever since. And when you came walking up the lawn, I thought, that’s how she looked when she walked up to me.”
I felt very still inside. I felt as if the LORD Himself had spoken to me. I could feel His presence there with us. I could feel His spirit replacing my worry and the anxiety with quiet and calm. My Father God said to me, “Go. Feed my sheep. Pray for them. Be with me. Trust me.”
I said to my new friend beside me, “God is good.” And he answered, “Yes, he is.”
We sat quietly for a few moments and enjoyed the green grass and the blue sky and the white clouds and the huge trees and the soft breeze and the birds flying and the insect sounds and the worship music coming through the windows and the God of the universe who uses the willing and cares for the broken and answers our prayers and makes a way where there’s no way.
And when we parted, my friend said to me, “I hope I see you again here.” I said, “Me, too.” He said, “You look for me, and I’ll look for you.” And I said, “I will.” And then I went inside to go to the service, with my heart and spirit full of the worship experience I’d just had.
“The winter emergency — or WE — network of seasonal shelters for the homeless will expand this year to include the downtown YWCA building as a consolidated women-only site. The spaces in the existing locations will be assigned only to men — opening up another 12 beds for men.”
“Last winter, 110 participants were assigned shelter beds. That number is expected to increase to at least 123 beds this year. Last year, the men’s spaces stayed full, but the women’s sites were never full. The locations are for adults only, which keeps out women with children.”
Not so good news.
As always, lots of homeless folks will choose to stay in their camps during the winter. If you’ve worked hard to build a camp (some have mattresses, furniture, showers, camp stoves, etc.), you don’t want to go to a shelter for the winter and have to leave all your possessions, which likely wouldn’t be there when you got back, if you did leave. NightWatch, StreetWatch and others will continue to do outreach to unsheltered homeless people during the winter.
Please consider making a donation to help fund winter shelter in Greensboro. Contact Greensboro Urban Ministry at 336-271-5959 to learn more.
We got an email through the StreetWatch web site asking for housing suggestions for a homeless family in Greensboro. I thought I’d share my answer here, too. Maybe it will help someone.
- Guilford Interfaith Hospitality Network: family shelter and housing assistance program — click here for website
- Pathways Center & Beyond Pathways: family shelter and permanent housing program for families — click here for web site
- Partnership Village: transitional housing — click here for web site
- Salvation Army: Shelter to Success program — click here for web site
- Greensboro Housing Authority: Public Housing and Section 8 voucher housing program — click here for web site
- Greensboro Housing Coalition: advocates for affordable housing — click here for web site