Running To Responsibility

From the time he was 15 Austin spent a lifetime running from his problems by using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and escape from conflict and pain. While, as an adult, he would go through periods of time when he would be sober for years on end, Austin would eventually fall off the wagon – once even missing his youngest son’s wedding because he was too ashamed that he’d been using again.

With this failure making home life untenable, Austin again tried to run from his problems ending up in Lancaster County where he stayed with a friend that encouraged him to get help at Water Street Mission.

“He put people in my life at Water Street who care about me and love me. I am so grateful.”

At first Austin was reluctant and frustrated but decided it was worth a shot, “I made a lot of poor choices in my life but this is probably the best choice I ever made.” Austin was welcomed into the Mission by staff that began to work with him. They walked alongside Austin and helped him deal with the presenting symptoms of his addictions and escapism. They also helped him recognize the root issues that would trigger these choices. “It is a great thing to stop using drugs and alcohol but if you don’t recover, if you don’t work on the stuff that is prompting you to turn to those substances, then it’s for nothing.” Austin began to awaken to his true identity in Christ and was filled with hope as he felt God enter the situation and guide him towards restoration. “God is the main reason Water Street works. He is in charge of this place. God has always been with me, and I’ve always chosen to run away. But here He is giving me the tools I need to succeed. He put people in my life at Water Street who care about me and love me. I am so grateful.”

The path to restoration is seldom easy. Austin has had to confront the very things he had been running from. “It is a struggle. I know the enemy is trying to destroy me every chance he gets. I just have to trust in God. He says He gave us His Word to heal us and save us from our destruction, I believe that. I know He is always with me.”

Beyond dealing with his own challenges, before moving out of Water Street, Austin began reaching out to new guests as they entered … encouraging them, helping them “find their way” and connecting them with others. “Not everyone comes here for the same reasons, but the doors are open to anyone, no matter where you come from. If you need help this is the place to come because it works.”

Austin is still running. This time, however, he is running TO his responsibilities … returning to New York to face his past head on. It’s the harder path for sure, but Austin remains hopeful and enjoys a newfound freedom. Recalling his time at Water Street, he expressed thanks to those who support the Mission financially. “The resources given to the mission are put to good use. They are helping people restore their lives and reconcile with their families and with themselves. They are finding healing there. It is truly incredible… I have seen it with my own eyes. Water Street saved my life.”


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