Today I got a tour of the Water Street Ministries campus in Lancaster. I lived in Lancaster for eight years many moons ago and now have been back in the county for five years, but I had never been inside the mission. I’d only been outside it to pick up or drop off people or donations. It was an enlightening experience.
Here are five keys I noticed that can help bring about lasting change:
1. Promoting the Dignity of Each Person
I was impressed with how much is done to promote the dignity of the individual. It starts with the neat maps outside showing the “campus” building. It shone forth from the nicely decorated and clean hallways. It was obvious in the natural and respectful ways that the staff spoke and joked with the residents. It was clear in the words and stories of the staff member I met with, even when off the campus and no clients were around.
2. Being Committed to the Family
Water Street has not only men’s and women’s shelters but also family rooms to keep families together. Whether it is a husband and wife with children or a father or mother with children, the mission works to keep them together. Parenting classes teach skills that may help break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Children and teen ministries in the community also encourage wise choices that may prevent homelessness for a new generation. Healing and wholeness is offered for the whole family.
3. Allowing Clients to Control Their Own Futures
Clients work with counselors to plan their futures, but the decisions are theirs. Those in the long-term programs learn how to access community resources to find the housing and jobs they need to move out of homelessness. While all residents have chores as part of living in community, there are few dictated activities. Homeless people who have no interest in the long-term programs can still find a place to sleep and get a shower or do some laundry through the CHOC center.
4. Confronting the Underlying Causes
“The need for housing, food and clothing are critical; but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. It is underlying needs and problems that sink the ship and lead to homelessness.”
I think that’s how my tour guide put it. And with the help of counselors and staff, Water Street works with clients to solve those issues. There is a Learning and Career Center with a computer lab and GED classes to prepare residents for the job market. There are classes and counseling to deal with issues involving trauma, abuse or addictions. Opportunities are given to learn more about a relationship with Jesus that can bring wholeness as people discover how valuable they are to God.
5. Caring for Physical Health
Water Street Health Services (WSHS) provides medical and dental care, not only to residents but also to the working poor with no insurance. They are in the process of adding behavioral health services. The mission understands the crucial link between lack of health services and homelessness. A 2008 study indicated that half of personal bankruptcies are the result of health problems; and bankruptcy can often lead to homelessness. Homeless people are also more likely to be ill. Chronic or frequent illness prevents individuals from keeping a job. The services of WSHS assist people in improving their health and so open the door to better job opportunities.
Our donations make a difference in the lives of the homeless. If you wish to donate to Water Street, click here. Or look into a homeless ministry in your area. Visit see how they treat and provide for their clients. And if they’re doing a good job, invest in what they’re doing and make a difference in your world.