On My Journey

Louisa was at the Community Homeless Outreach Center (CHOC) for about a week before it sunk in. “I had my own apartment for five months prior, and the realization that I don’t have a place to call my own anymore just put me into a slough of despond,” Louisa said as she looked back on what it was like to be new to homelessness.  Louisa had been her mom’s primary caregiver until she passed away in the fall of 2013. “She was so much a part of my life. She believed in me, prayed for me, spoke words of life over me. She always said, ‘God is not done with you yet,’ ” Louisa said.

Louisa described the extreme depression she experienced during her first few weeks in the shelter.  It was like being stuck in cement. One day she prayed up the energy to approach one of the Life Coaches for prayer. The combination of asking for help while receiving prayer lit whatever spark was left deep inside Louisa’s soul.

Her Life Coach was her connection to accessing the medical, spiritual, and behavioral healthcare she desperately needed. Louisa was told about a program on campus called Thrive, which enabled her to gain help with her depression, diabetes and something Louisa craved deeper than anything—spiritual guidance. “You could have the greatest doctors in the world, but because everything is so professional they can’t go beyond it [and pray with a patient]. When you are going through something, you need the spiritual,” said Louisa. She equates praying with the medical, dental and behavioral healthcare staff at Water Street to her progress.

A team of professionals, passionate about making homelessness a thing of the past, surrounds Louisa on her journey. There is more for her to experience on the other side of homelessness. God is not done with her yet, and she believes it.

In addition to her medical support Louisa was assigned a prayer counselor, made possible through our partnering agency Refuge of Healing and Hope, who met with her weekly.

Louisa’s Life Coach and Case Manager worked with her to set up a plan of action for acquiring work and managing her health. She took a career-planning seminar through one of our partners, CareerLink, which gave her the tools needed to perfect her resume and connected her with a staffing agency. Louisa accepted two part-time jobs within walking distance from the Mission.  In her free time she is taking financial courses held at Water Street, learning how to budget and manage her income.  Louisa sold her car in order to pay off a few bills; a financial step toward is helping her reach her goal.

“My goal is to get stable employment—to get permanently hired so that I can settle into managing my budget and then transition into an efficiency apartment,” Louisa said. Louisa knows that big boulders remain on her path, but she is gaining the tools and strength to climb over them. A team of professionals, passionate about making homelessness a thing of the past, surrounds Louisa on her journey. There is more for her to experience on the other side of homelessness. God is not done with her yet, and she believes it.


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