A Surrendered Life

Growing up in the projects of North Philadelphia, Bill got caught in a grip of addiction that would stay with him into adulthood. Despite his secret drug use, he tried hard to be a ‘good guy’ – being with one lady and always showing up to do his best at work. Over time, he found it harder and harder to maintain his responsible external image and his life spiraled downward and into homelessness.

Bill stumbled into Water Street thinking he was entering another rehab facility for drug abuse, then quickly realized it was a Christian program. “When I heard that, I made the decision to surrender and stay. I wanted to surrender all of my past. My word became surrender.”

As Bill began to learn about the Bible and the life of Jesus he grew in his realization that he could surrender his problems to God. He decided to attend church regularly and even when he didn’t feel like it, he would surrender and stick with his commitments there and at Water Street. It wasn’t easy, he recalls, but it was worth it, “I stuck and I stayed and as time went on my life started changing. I just kept surrendering and kept surrendering. I started to believe that I didn’t have to live my life the same anymore.”

“With their actions they showed me love, they stuck with me and showed me a different way of life.”

One of the most instrumental influences in Bill’s life was a man from his church, named Mark, who agreed to mentor and guide him. Mark jumped right in and began to walk beside Bill as Bill continued to surrender to God. When Bill looks back on the beginning of his mentorship with Mark, he calls it the best decision of his life. Mark and his family provided stability and authentic relationship, even bringing Bill into their vacations, and holiday gatherings. “With their actions they showed me love, they stuck with me and showed me a different way of life.”

Bill continued to be committed to his program at Water Street, his church, and his relationships with Mark and God. Bill continued to hold on and surrender his life daily to God. Eventually a job opened at Mark’s place of employment to work in maintenance. Bill applied and landed the job! As Bill became more financially stable, he was able to buy a car and eventually, rent a room.

Bill now lives in his own home and continues to work in maintenance. “My prayer is to stay in the Lord’s will, He keeps telling me ‘I got you. All you have to do is stay. I got you.’ Through all the trials, He tells me, ‘I got you.’” Bill is looking forward and continuing his journey with God and with a community of friends. Though Bill is no longer at Water Street, when he visits, he is reminded of the opportunity waiting for others who come to the mission ready to surrender. “To have a net, a place like Water Street, to catch people when they’re in need is very important. They were offering me a way to grab on and change my life. I tried to do the best I could with it and I am so grateful to Water Street and all the financial supporters who gave me a place to change.”


An Update from Jack 5/4/2020


Dear Friends,

Throughout this season, we have encountered a number of challenges in operating our shelter safely. Thankfully we have been blessed to see no community spread among our guests. This is due not only to the work of our team, but also the ways that upgrades to our facilities came at just the right time.

For example, Providence Shelter, which opened in November 2019, provides additional spacing and a top-tier air filtration system. We have also been able to implement the same air filtration standards in our dining hall prior to the most recent wave of COVID.

Because a high percentage of our guests have preexisting health conditions, we have had to be diligent in our safety protocols, doing our best to ensure their safety. For us that has included implanting all CDC disinfecting, masking and social distancing from the very beginning. This has led to major changes in roles and responsibilities of staff. Staff have taken over disinfecting in shifts all over campus. They have also delivered much of our support services and programs through zoom, hosting counseling sessions and classes virtually and meeting in-person with plexi-glass dividers only when necessary.

For meals, we’ve changed preparation and delivery to help minimize interaction of guests who live in different facilities. At times that has meant delivering meals to certain Residential Floors so we can keep smaller groups in the dining hall. We have also had to restrict guests’ travel on and off campus to only essential trips such as going to work, the doctors, shopping etc., in order to minimize unnecessary exposure.

Another change in this season has been how we do intakes. Currently, the intake process requires new guests to be tested for COVID-19. They await their test results in a separate temporary shelter we have set up, before entering Providence Emergency Shelter.

All of these changes have been made while severely limiting the number of volunteers on campus. At one point, all volunteering was completely put on hold. Now, we are running with a third of our normal volunteers.

And it’s been tiring, for both staff and guests. We have had times where many staff were working remotely due to their own health risks. Other times where staff or guests have been quarantined due to exposures. But even with all of the schedule changes, increased overtime, and cross-shift working, our team has done an amazing job persevering through all of the challenges.

What to Expect This Winter Typically we have over 200 total guests on campus, over 100 in our Residential Programs over and 100 in our Emergency Shelters. Although our Residential capacity remains about the same, we have had to reduce the available beds in Providence Shelter to ensure safe spacing overnight from about 75 to 55.

Winter always presents its own challenges, so we anticipate this year will be no different. Women in our Providence Shelter have moved over to the shelter at St. Mary’s across the street, run by the Lancaster Food Hub. During their stay there they have full access to all of our services, including showers, food and staff support. Not only does having women shift to St. Mary’s enable us to free up additional beds for men, it will help us keep the shelter populations separate and limit the risk of spread.

Thank You We have been so encouraged by the support we have received this year. Without a community coming around us and our guests, we would not be able to keep our guests safe and continue to guide them in their restoration journeys. We truly couldn’t do what we do without you.

Jack Crowley