Reclaiming Joy

In high school, Sharon was one of those teenagers who exuded confidence. She was a daddy’s girl, a cheerleader, and with her family behind her, it seemed like nothing could stand in her way.

She joined the military and fell in love with her career, but found something she loved even more when she met her future husband. That day she called her mom saying “It’s everything you told me about you and dad…he touched my shoulder and my knees got weak.”

Life came together as they got married and started a family. Her husband served abroad and soon enough her children began high school. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, something dangerous crept up behind her.
It didn’t seem like an addiction at first.

“Everything is done here with the hopes of us healing and moving on to a bigger and better life.”

Sharon started calling her new pain medication her “happy pills.” But when the refills ran out, she kept chasing that feeling. There was an emptiness, whether it was her husband’s travels, or the death of her beloved father, she didn’t know. All she knew was how to fill the hole.

She drove herself deeper into drug use for years, only later realizing her son had started down the same path.

Fear and guilt compounded, pulling her into harder substances and leaving her overwhelmed with pain. “I was not a mother at all or a wife,” she says, “I hated my life and so did my son.”

The worst came when her husband realized he had to leave, hoping she would finally get help. It broke her heart. “I know now, God let me let him go,” she says. With nowhere to live, and her family nudging her on, she eventually decided to come to Water Street.

She came running on adrenaline, trying to figure out her finances, housing, and recovery all at once. But in her first week, three separate staff members approached her, telling her she could “slow down,” and take it one step at a time.

Life coaches helped her realize she had been facing depression for years, self-medicating instead of addressing her pain. She started counseling and then took classes in our Residential Program, soon learning “you’re not good until you find out how you got that way and give it to God.” Now she knows there are no shortcuts. “All those years of trying to fill in the hole that was missing, I was missing God that whole time.”

Through working towards her goals one step at a time, Sharon can say that today she is in a completely different place. She’s reunited with the love of her life, and recently bought a new home, a perfect setting for their next chapter together. Through the Step Up program, staff helped her find a life-giving job that “doesn’t even feel like a job,” working at a nursing home. Now, she is ready for a fresh start. “I just love the wife that God’s given me the chance to be, the mother, the grandmother… Joy came into my life and that’s an indescribable thing.”


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