So many wonderful things have happened in the last two weeks, I’m not sure actually where I should begin. First, I would like to thank the First Stop Board of Directors for the giving me the opportunity to serve a unique and amazing organization that is so extremely vital to our community. I am deeply humbled and I vow to work diligently so that we may rapidly increase our capacity to help those who need it most. The challenges facing First Stop and the homeless community are enormous, but certainly not insurmountable, if we all work together toward our shared and common goals.
As I write this, Elizabeth and the children are busy finishing the painting of the First Stop dayroom. They have donated so much time and talent to help transform the facility. I can’t thank them enough for all that they have done to support First Stop. The day room is brighter, cleaner, and reflects our new branding that will hopefully result in more donations and funding.
In the last few days, our volunteers have been incredibly busy. Also, younger volunteers have been helping to serve breakfast and keep the facility clean. In fact, we had 52 people for breakfast this last Thursday! There were 32 who attended weekly Bible study.
We’ve taken steps to ensure that facility is safe by installing four more fire extinguishers and reducing the amount of clutter in the offices. Our outreach vehicles have been serviced. The gutters have been cleaned, the sheds reorganized, new shelves installed in the pantry, offices moved, and supplies that were previously stockpiled have been packaged to make sure that they are distributed to the people that need them.
Operationally, we’ve made significant changes to streamline our intake and assessment processes and to provide immediate referrals in cases where First Stop is not the appropriate resource to help the person in need. All staff have been required to accompany the various outreach teams (including me) so that they can bring services to those who cannot make it to First Stop and so that they can understand, firsthand, the challenges faced by our clients. The Outreach Team, Board Members, volunteers, and partner organizations are all welcome to attend our weekly staff meeting held every Wednesday at 4pm in the dayroom.
My philosophy is very simple: Treat people with respect and dignity; provide real help and resources whenever possible; and advocate strongly for those who have no voice. In the last two weeks, I’ve reached out to First Stop’s partner organizations and the community to let folks know that there is a renewed commitment to providing services to our clients.
I will continue to post a blog at least every two weeks to keep you informed of the progress we are making at First Stop. Over the last two weeks, I’ve been to about 15 or more homeless camps throughout the city and the needs are great. Solving homelessness isn’t solely a matter of locating shelter for a person; it’s about providing intensive case management to help an individual become self-sufficient and empowered. We need at least two more case managers which, in turn, means we need much more funding and donorship. Please give generously and know that your money is being put to good use.
Please contact me with your feedback and help us continually improve our services.
Our work is just beginning…