The Way of the Cross Leads Home
by Scott Dunwoody, Executive Director
Every month an average of 100 men walk up the steps and check in at 611 Reily Street—half are completely new to the Mission; half have been connected previously in some way. Each man has a different story, but all of them are at the end of their rope and in search of hope and a home. One of the things we hear frequently from our guests is that they appreciate the sense of safety they feel at our facilities. In light of this, I cannot help but think of the old hymn “The Way of the Cross Leads Home.”
Each man that enters the men’s shelter is invited to walk with us through a series of stages that will help them heal—physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. At every step of the journey, our staff and counselors share spiritual truths and walk alongside our guests. Here is a brief look at each of those stages:
First Stage: Upon arrival and check-in, men are welcomed and given a bed and locker to store their possessions. Most are in need of a meal and new clothing. The basic stay is 20 days long to give men an opportunity to save some money and then go back out on their own. Stays can be as short as one night or as long as a year if the guest enrolls in the recovery program. “Our role is to assist guests according to their needs with the love of Christ and our own experience as the focal points,” says Cecil McCray, Manager of Mission Services.
Second Stage: A staff member does a more in-depth assessment of guests’ needs. “When men enter, I get to meet them one-on-one as the Director of Social Services and am able to share the gospel with every one of them,” says Don Koch. They are assessed to determine whether or not they have mental health issues, substance abuse issues, physical health problems, or poor life-skills. From there, they are directed to the appropriate programs and services. “We help the whole person so these issues won’t again lead to homelessness and defeat,” says Don.
Third Stage: Guests who are accepted into the year-long recovery program are assigned a life coach who they work with for the duration of the program. The year includes one-on-one counseling, as well as three classes each day that deal with topics like shame and anger. Each class has Scripture as its foundation. An integral part of the program is the relationships that life coaches and guests build with one another. Life coach Steve Heinbaugh shares, “I see broken, shamed men who don’t want to be in a homeless shelter end up being healed because of Christ’s love.”
Fourth Stage: Graduates from the recovery program receive after-care to help them gain independence. They move to Trinity House, our transitional living facility, where the Director is available to meet for additional counseling, help them find a job, learn how to budget their resources, and adjust to life back in society. “I help men establish relationships with a church, a mentor, and an employer and reconcile relationships with family members,” says Doug Barger, Director of Client After-Care. While meetings with Doug are relatively infrequent, he is available on short notice, and residents of Trinity House are accountable to each other.
You may have heard that Bethesda Mission is making some adjustments to our winter shelter policies this year. We’ve shared before the enormous numbers of men housed under our roof the past few years–up to 100% above capacity! An honest question to raise is, “how will we walk so many men through these four stages?” The answer is, we can’t. So, we are calling on the greater Harrisburg community to rise up and help. Downtown Daily Bread will be opening up 30 extra beds downtown at Pine Street Presbyterian Church, and others are looking at more ways to help. Please pray with us that these efforts will result in availability of over-night shelter for every person in need, while making it possible for us to truly address the core-issues in every man’s life who stays with us, leading to life-long recovery, renewal and self-sufficiency by God’s grace.
With such a large number of people arriving each month, it is inevitable that some will choose not to stay because they are not ready or willing to do what is necessary. Our hope and prayer is that they will come back when they are ready to continue the journey.
Your support is an important part of the work we do—thank you for your commitment to this ministry. One of the ways we see God’s faithfulness is through the continued support we receive. As you thank God this season for all of His blessings, we hope you will continue to be a part of what God is doing at Bethesda Mission as well. If you’d like to make a donation today, click here.
May God bless you and your family during this season of Thanksgiving.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” —Psalm 4:8 (NIV)
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