My street ministry “Street Reach for the Homeless” began during the winter of 2011 as I saw a group of people, men and women, living on the streets of Fort Wayne, Indiana, who fell between the cracks and stepped forward after the 2011 Point in Time Homeless Count. To have looked into the eyes of a homeless gent as I helped remove gloves nearly frozen to his fingers…to have seen the despair…the loneliness…the fear… and then walked away, turning my back, would have been wrong and simply not a choice for me.
The first issue was simply how could I best serve these homeless people? How could I encourage them to find hope, faith, and in turn meet their immediate needs with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings as I worked to help rebuild their lives.
My Street Reach for the Homeless was formed. No matter the reason or the weather conditions, and trust me, -40 wind this past winter was bone chilling, every Monday and Thursday evening I was there, under the stars, with a full hot balanced meal and a van aka “mobile boutique” filled with new and gently used clothing, hygiene items, blankets, sleeping bags, tents, tarps, as well as, an open heart and a listening ear for anyone who stands in my line. No questions are asked. Whether shelters are full, addictions rule, life experience or mental illness prevents them from trusting a shelter’s intentions, I am there to meet them on their life’s path with no judgments or preconceived notions.
I serve between 50-60 people a night in the winter time and on an average 100-120 a night in the summer time with the numbers climbing as new faces join the line.
I never ask why they are there or where they might live, though in the winter, I may ask if the individual sleeps inside or outside. This just determines which to give, blanket or comforter. I want to be sure to offer the thickest to those who sleep in the rough.
Those I serve are comprised of men and women who sleep on the streets – under a bridge, on a bench, in a tent, behind a sheet of metal, under a stairwell, behind a dumpster, or an abandoned building. The precariously housed sleep on floors, couches, in attics or basements – invisible but sheltered. Those who reside in a transitional shelter or our urban poor because no one should have to worry about where their next meal is coming as they choose between paying bills, utilities, rent, medical needs, etc.
As the years have gone by, I have seen the issues—and I have become a vocal advocate as I vow to make a difference. Across this country we have people out there who are the most at risk—the most humble of our homeless—who are simply falling between the cracks – and in Fort Wayne, Indiana they are my neighbors. They are human beings. They matter each and every day and night they deserve our attention. On the streets I will stay as long as they stay, as long as “housing first” is not the standard in this city and until I can stay no longer. To this day I say this is a God led, God protected street ministry and am honored to be there under the stars with these precious men, women and families. God bless!
Sally is the Founder of Street Reach for the Homeless in Fort Wayne. If you wish to donate gently used clothing or non-perishable food, the drop off locations include: Pembroke Bakery in the Auer Bldg-Main Street, Self Image-4646 N. Jefferson Blvd., Evolve Spa-Illinois Road next to Subaru, Summit Heating, Dupont Road.