A Piece of the Puzzle

Many times, the stories we tell are complex. Guests come to us from across Lancaster County for different reasons, and those reasons aren’t always easily understood. Recently a guest named Jim* came to us battling severe mental illness. He used to be a music producer, and wrote songs for top bands across the country, living a full life. But somewhere around 50, things went downhill quickly. The reality is, despite work with our Case Managers, and several assessments, we really don’t know why.

While at Water Street, Jim struggled to understand and follow new protocols, wandering out of quarantine areas during his initial intake, and after making it through quarantine often broke curfew and other rules. At times, he would be found on campus mumbling and repeating the same words nonsensically over and over again.

Even if we are just one piece of the puzzle in someone’s healing journey, we are grateful for the opportunity to walk alongside guests, whatever their trials. We know that ultimately, it’s God who brings restoration into their lives.

But one thing staff strive to work through on a daily basis is to put people before rules, when possible. They seek to remember Jesus’s teaching first, that laws were made for man, and not man for laws. In Jim’s case, despite all the rules he broke, we knew he needed help. Likely more intensive help than we were able to give.

Discharging him didn’t seem like the answer, so instead staff decided to give him more time, and find him a behavioral health clinic suited for full time care. As he left Water Street Mission, we tried to remember that God has Jim in His hands. We don’t fully understand his past, and we don’t know what his future holds.

Mercifully, in his case, we did hear back. After several trying weeks for Jim, his father called and told us about his journey. For the first time in his life, his father said, Jim wrote a song about Jesus. His father wanted us to know that Water Street “provided the safety to help him feel safe with God again.”

Jim often came back to campus even though he was no longer at Water Street. In fact, he would often seek out one of the life coaches who had a profound impact on him during his time here. If we can offer a safe place for someone going through a hard time, perhaps that is the role God is asking us to fill. Even if we are just one piece of the puzzle in someone’s healing journey, we are grateful for the opportunity to walk alongside guests, whatever their trials. We know that ultimately, it’s God who brings restoration into their lives.

*Name changed to protect identity


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