March 2021 – “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me’” (Matthew 25:40, NIV).
An unhealthy plague is sweeping across the nation. It’s not only COVID-19. It is also homelessness. Currently, an estimated half-million people are experiencing poverty and homelessness in the U. S. Many face hard times due to job loss, health issues, or poor life choices. Others struggle with addiction and regret while living on the streets.
However, many Christ-centered rescue missions are responding to the hurting. These ministries answer the desperate calls of homelessness by providing shelter, food, and the hope of the cross.
Winchester Rescue Mission (winrescue.org)
In Virginia, the Winchester Rescue Mission (WRM) has long stood as a beacon of relief for the homeless. This ministry extends hope to those down on their luck by offering shelter, additional support through case management, and sustenance.
Since 1973 WRM has been a place of refuge for men impacted by hard times. The mission’s founder, Morris Whitaker, followed God’s call and left his secure job to open doors and help struggling men and women. And after 48 years, individuals are still flooding to WRM to receive the same love and kindness that began with Whitaker.
The mission began as a temporary housing shelter for men. Now, through expansion, the home can accommodate 32 men seeking emergency shelter and relief. In 2018 WRM opened its first women’s shelter, Stone House, which provides temporary lodging for six women. Meanwhile, WRM is adding another house for 15 women and hopes to continue building shelters for those in need.
According to the ministry website, “By meeting these most basic and immediate needs, we provide hope not only for today but also for the future in an environment that reflects the love of God in tangible ways.”
Through caseworkers, the ministry strives to encourage the needy by meeting them where they are and helping them plan their next steps. Participants are reassured that their caseworker will help them change unhealthy behavior.
While ministering to the homeless, WRM also strives to serve the community. Daily and year-round, the mission’s volunteer team partners with local food banks, restaurants, and stores to feed those in Winchester. They offer a community-wide food distribution at the mission once a week and nightly dinner open to individuals and families in the area.
Good Works Inc. (good-works.net)
Good Works Inc. has one goal: Love God and love their neighbors.
In 1981 Good Works founder Keith Wasserman answered God’s still small voice asking him to provide shelter and minister to the homeless and poverty-stricken. In choosing to answer that call, Wasserman also made a personal decision to live as a homeless person for some time.
“I have learned that to understand and help people who are suffering,” Wasserman continued, “one must leave the comfort of one’s security and reach out, perhaps incurring some personal risk and pain.”
In his on-the-street experiment, Wasserman’s eyes were opened to the pain and suffering many homeless individuals face. His perspective broadened, and his compassion overflowed for the street people he met. Thus, he began serving the city of Athens, Ohio, through Good Works.
What began as a two-bedroom apartment in Wasserman’s basement grew into a full-fledged, multi-faceted ministry. Since its inception 40 years ago, Good Works has provided more than 115,000 nights of protection for men, women, and children in need.
The ministry’s two shelters, Timothy House and Hannah House, continue to comfort the homeless. Timothy House stands as the oldest homeless shelter in Ohio.
But that’s not all.
With a name derived from Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel, Hannah House seeks to use the six-room home as a space to encourage individuals to adhere to God’s voice and become a prophetic influence in their generation.
Through many facets, Good Works is determined to help those battling hard times, making it more than just a shelter.
One of those facets is Transformation Station. In exchange for sweat equity, this outreach provides individuals with things they need such as appliances, non-emergency foods, bicycles, and cars. With hard work and a little sweat, people can volunteer and earn goods. On top of having their needs met, participants also build valuable friendships and learn to apply new skills.
In 2021 the ministry is celebrating its 40th year, but it’s God’s providential hand that has led them thus far. One thing is sure – what began with Wasserman loving God and his neighbors has led to the team at Good Works continuing to fulfill that goal with great impact.
The Rescue Mission (fwrm.org)
Changing lives for good. These four simple words embolden everything a mission in Indiana stands for. Since 1903 the Rescue Mission has passionately fought to restore lives affected by homelessness through housing and renewed hope.
Started by a group of diligent believers, the mission began with the desire to serve local and transient homeless men. One-hundred-seventeen years later, the ministry has morphed into a four-home mission focused on restoring lives.
The ministry offers shelter and warmth while seeking to prepare them for life outside the mission’s walls. Committed to serving 13 counties around Fort Wayne, Indiana, the mission served 1,982 individuals in 2020 alone.
It shows no signs of stopping.
Their first home, Restoration House, continues to focus on rebuilding hope in the lives of hurting men. After seeing how great the need was, the mission realized they needed to do more. Last August with the newest addition, the W. Paul Wolf Rescue Mission, the ministry can now house 164 men, with hopes to serve additional individuals after COVID -19 restrictions cease.
Charis House, known in Greek as “house of grace,” focuses exclusively on meeting women’s and children’s needs. Through these programs, women can cope with life struggles and learn how to better themselves. While tending to mothers’ critical needs, this ministry also changes their sons’ and daughters’ future.
One visitor, Tawana Isabel, shared how her life changed through her time at Charis House.
“If it wasn’t for the Charis House, I don’t think I would be here for my children,” said Isabel. “It’s that simple. It changed my life.”
The Rescue Mission also owns and operates a resale shop, the Treasure House. Through retail, this branch of the ministry offers great deals on gently used items such as donated clothes and home goods, and each purchase goes to benefit those seeking shelter and help from the Rescue Mission.
One thing is for sure, through the efforts of many volunteers and caring individuals, lives and futures are being changed – for good.
Homelessness by the numbers
According to a study by St. Francis Inn in Pennsylvania (stfrancisinn.org):
34% of cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness.
22% of the adult homeless population suffers from mental illness.
A 2019 annual assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (hud.gov/press) revealed that:
37,085 of veterans were reported as homeless.
53,692 families with children experienced homelessness.
35,038 unaccompanied youth and children were homeless.