Living Transformed

“Life is what happens after you’ve already made plans,” said someone a long time ago.  For many of the people who walk through our doors here at Water Street, their life plan didn’t include becoming homeless.  It just happened after life tossed them something they didn’t plan. 

Deborah arrived at Water Street after a long battle with depression.  Her spiral downward happened over the course of twenty-five years, and that long journey ended the day she attempted suicide.   Deborah went from being a successful nurse in the ER to waking up in the hospital with the realization that her attempt to take her life failed. 

Deborah admits to hitting rock bottom a long time before attempting suicide.  “I found that I was just not myself anymore.  I started calling in sick for work and they eliminated my position.  I lied to my family.  My pride kept me from admitting that I needed help,” she said.   After taking a cocktail of prescription drugs then waking up in a hospital bed a week later, she realized life wouldn’t let her go.   “The next thing I remember was waking up.  I was hearing voices.  People calling my name and turning me side to side,” Deborah recalls.  “I’m in the hospital.  I didn’t kill myself.  Oh-my-gosh, I’m still a failure I couldn’t even kill myself,” she said.  With nowhere else to go, she took a cab to Water Street. 

Her journey changed her from the inside out, and to hear Deborah tell her story today it’s like listening to a humble teacher explain the impact of God’s strength.  Life is still happening in an unplanned way for her, but today she sees herself through her Father’s eyes.  “To look at myself through God’s eyes I see a proud Father looking at his daughter who has just grown up and realized that she has the whole world in front of her.”


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