Pastor Connie is making a good recovery from surgery, and she’ll be back in the office on January 2. Just to let you know she’s still thinking creatively about ABC’s ministry, here’s an article she wrote for this week’s Messenger.
You step out of the warm house and a shock of unexpected cold hits you. What’s your first thought?
Maybe it’s “I’m glad I brought my jacket.” Maybe it’s “I didn’t think it got this cold in Southern California.” Maybe it’s “I’m glad the furnace is working.”
Then what’s your second thought? For those of us who have worked with homeless people, our next thought is, “I hope the Bad Weather Shelter is open tonight.” Then we often call the hotline, just to make sure our homeless population has a warm place to sleep that night.
ABC people have volunteered at the Bad Weather Shelter since it began being hosted at the Pasadena Covenant Church in 1987. There have been many changes over the years. In the beginning, we had to provide volunteers to stay overnight. After a few years the shelter bumped up its security and provided its own overnight staff.
Funding has always been a challenge. For many years, the volunteering groups have been asked to provide a meal for 40-100 people. We have been able to do this by asking for donations of turkeys, and developing different nutritious, tasty dishes with turkey meat as a foundation.
At the height of service to our homeless population a few years ago, the shelter expanded to open a second location just for homeless families — even providing breakfast to this population (through volunteers, of course). It was during this time that ABC helped in arranging two weddings for couples who had been together for many years.
But then we saw the City of Pasadena begin to pull back its funding and support of emergency homeless services. Many of us felt that the city leaders had calculated that the Bad Weather Shelter and other services attracted homeless people to Pasadena, and they didn’t see this as a good thing. Removing services would cause them to go elsewhere. Problem solved.
So, the City of Pasadena axed its $60,000 funding of the shelter. (A concerted campaign pressured City Councilmembers to take away $20,000 per year over three years, rather than defunding the program all at once.) It was believed that churches and other caring non-profit organizations would step into that gap. There was no longer any funding for the separate family program.
This year, the City of Pasadena has demanded several other changes that severely impact those providing volunteer service. An outbreak of Hepatitis A in the homeless population in San Diego has caused Pasadena Public Health Department to look closely at how to protect our population, delaying the opening of the shelter and almost shutting it down entirely. Negotiations finally resulted in these changes:
- All volunteers must have a Hep A vaccination.
- We must use paper/disposable goods to serve meals and wipe all kitchen surfaces down with bleach.
- No one under 15 can volunteer (This one really hurts us, as we had loved taking our children and youth to help, teaching them compassion and service.)
- We cannot bring any precooked or home-cooked item, or non-grocery-packed item. If we bring any pre-cooked item, it must have been cooked and delivered from a certified kitchen. This means we cannot use our turkeys any longer, nor can we prepare meals in our ABC kitchen. This puts a bigger financial burden on us to provide for the protein portion of the meal.
We understand the need for safety, especially dealing with a vulnerable population. And we definitely want volunteers to be safe as well. But some wonder if the City of Pasadena would like the shelter to go away entirely. As one person said, “The homeless people will certainly be safer — and colder and hungrier, too.”
Truthfully, our volunteer numbers had been low, and with these further restrictions, we wonder if we can continue to serve the homeless population. We’d like to know if we have the energy and vision to overcome these new obstacles. Would some of you who donated turkeys in the past wish to donate those funds used to purchase turkeys to buy other protein for the meal? Would those of you who volunteered in the past continue volunteering, even if it means getting vaccinated? Would some of you who haven’t volunteered before be part of a new volunteer force? Our first night of possible service would be Sunday, January 14 (based on the weather). Will you join the conversation? Let us know what you think. We need ideas.
Somehow, it doesn’t seem right, especially in this season of the year, for followers of Jesus to say to homeless people, “Sorry, there’s no room at the Pasadena Inn.”
— Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn