From Mess To Ministry

James struggled with alcohol for many years to the point where his wife told him to leave. He bounced from rehabs to halfway houses and hospitals never being able to get beyond temporary improvement. James was on a downward spiral, doing jail time for a DUI and assault charge and then being forcibly evicted. James was homeless.

He was at the end of himself, with no resources, no prospects and no hope. James remembers being at the corner of Prince and Lemon Streets, deciding whether or not to turn left and end it all by throwing himself in front of a train. He remembered one person telling him to come to Water Street Mission and he chose to turn right and walk in the front doors of CHOC (Water Street’s Community Homeless Outreach Center).

He was broken, crying and drunk and two guys immediately walked up to him and put his arms around James, telling him that everything was going to be okay.

James remembers being at the corner and deciding whether or not to turn left and end it all by throwing himself in front of a train.

A Case Manager talked with James, letting him know about the programs that would be available to him. Further suggesting that James was in no condition to make a decision that day, his Case Manager got him set up with the emergency services he would need and told him that he would talk with him the next day.

Knowing that his own choices had led to his hitting rock bottom, James decided to sign up for what was then Water Street’s Life Recovery Program. He also went to church with another Mission guest who introduced James to Discovery Recovery.

Through his time at church, in campus bible studies and chapel, and talking with his counselor, James discovered the roots of perfectionism and the resulting feelings of inadequacy that he attempted to silence by drinking. He dealt with false beliefs he had about God from being raised in a highly legalistic church. James began to experience a loving God that he’d never known before and He chose to give his life to Him.

The road wasn’t easy. James even had to serve a brief jail sentence for a prior offense in the middle of his time at Water Street (though a sympathetic judge gave him work release privileges so that he could come back to campus and complete the Life Recovery Program).

James is now 5 years sober and remarried. He is good friends with his former wife and has a better relationship with his children than he’d ever had. After working in a construction job for a while, he felt God calling him to use his past experiences to help others so he became a certified Recovery Specialist through the State and now works as a Residential Coordinator and Facility Caretaker at Rase Project – a Recovery Community Organization.

Thanks to your support, James has gone from alcohol addiction to helping others experience the restoration that he has.


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