CityHeart is breaking records in our efforts to help people in need.
Activity at CityHeart has been on the rise this spring and summer. In May, we broke all-time records for the number of requests we received for help, the amount of time we spent with those people, and the amount of money we contributed to their emergency needs. CityHeart articles usually focus on a particular story based on the needs of one individual or family. In all this busy-ness I realize it has been two months since I have taken time to write such an article. I implore you to continue reading to experience the reality of a day in the life of CityHeart volunteers and staff . . . an attempt to show how many people and circumstances we encounter in any given day – and the difference we are making.
The day is Monday, July 6 – Katie is the regular volunteer today, a new volunteer Nancy is here to observe, and Kris is staff. The three of us barely keep up with the level of activity. These short snippets just touch the surface of their stories. (All names have been changed to protect their identity.)
10:00AM Opening time – Teresa called just as we opened for the day, she had left two messages over the holiday weekend. We had offered a pledge for her DP&L last week and she says she has paid the rest now. She wanted to know if we send our check to DP&L? Told her we will confirm and take care of it.
Darren came in and asked for a bus token to get home. We haven’t seen him in about two years, still doing well he says smiling, alcohol and drug free! Visited with him briefly and he went on his way.
Mary came in to wait for her friend Kevin who is a CityHeart regular visitor. They often meet up here at CityHeart to enjoy a cup of coffee or cold water, and plan the next steps of their day. Kevin was running later than usual, but he finally arrived and then they were also on their way soon after.
Cindy called the office, she was referred by her Parole Officer because her ID expired while she was in a local detention program for six months. She must have a new ID today before she meets with him for her appointment. We gave her directions on how to find CityHeart, says she will come today.
James called asking for help with a birth certificate. After checking our database we found that CityHeart had recently assisted James to pay his DP&L bill. Our financial policy for emergencies is once in a twelve month period, so today we could not help to purchase a birth certificate, but we were able to give him a referral for another resource where he could get help the next day.
Loretta called for help with rent and deposit. She is a full time student, has four children, and is a victim of domestic violence. It is dangerous for her to stay in her current location and she suddenly needs $1000.00. She only has $400 right now. We confirmed that she is receiving counseling and assistance from the local Domestic Violence program. Although we don’t usually help with up-front moving costs, we have flexibility in extreme circumstances such as this one. CityHeart offered a partial pledge toward her total and gave some referrals for other possible resources. We will anxiously await her return call.
Cindy who called earlier arrived at CityHeart while we were working on the situation with Loretta. She patiently waited and then we prepared a check for her to take to the BMV to obtain her ID today.
Robby walked downtown, he lives about 10 blocks away. He brought his friend Ben who needs help. Robby needs to get to the Job and Family Services where he will pick up the monthly bus pass he receives for medical appointments. We gave him a token so he doesn’t have to walk all the way.
Robby and Ben met when they were both at the Gateway shelter. Ben had been placed into permanent housing through Homefull about a year ago. At that time he was working two jobs and took on a roommate to help with expenses. That living arrangement didn’t work out, he has since lost one of his jobs and hasn’t been able to keep up with the rent. The landlord has allowed him to fall behind three months for $1250.00. We tried our best to offer some referrals but there is not much available for such a large amount. We encouraged him to ask for more hours at work or a get second job again, and actively seek another roommate. Sadly, he may become homeless again. We pray not.
Andrew was stranded in Dayton, travelling from California to Pennsylvania. He arrived just before lunchtime. Volunteers offered him coffee and a snack. He asked if we could help get his birth certificate from West Virginia, says he will need an Ohio ID to go to the bank? He saw how busy we were and said he would come back, told him we were open till 3:00.
Throughout the morning a few other CityHeart regulars were in and out for coffee. At 11:30 members from the noon AA 12-step meeting began to arrive, they often share in CityHeart hospitality offerings of coffee and fruit before their meeting begins.
12:00 NOON – BREAK FOR LUNCH (Are you worn out yet? Volunteers and staff take this time to re-fuel for whatever the afternoon will bring.)
Our first visitor for the afternoon was a new downtown resident, Tammy, who is Deaf. We had talked with her landlord and suggested that if she needed help to come on a Monday when Natalie, our church volunteer who knows sign language, will be on site. New to this area, Tammy came asking for food resources. With Natalie’s help we were able to give referrals for: free hot meal sites, emergency food pantry she can access today, a food pantry list for this zip code, and information for our own Dayton Episcopal Pantry. She was also made aware that our Sunday service is interpreted for the Deaf and invited her to join us for worship. She left with lots of information and a new friend!
Sherry was referred by First Baptist Church, needs help with rent. She called while we were busy working with Tammy, her information was taken and she was told we will need to call back later.
A short break in the action allowed Kris to contact DP&L for Teresa who had called first this this morning. We wrote a check for our pledge, prepared a letter to accompany it and mailed it to DP&L.
Andrea came as a walk-in. She was downtown looking for help with a potential eviction situation. She had a darling 7-month-old baby boy with her, (she is stepping in to get custody because her cousin can’t take responsibility for the child.) Due to an unexpected car repair she still needs $350.00 for rent. She can pay $150.00 and thinks she can get another $150.00, so we faxed a pledge of $50 to the rental office, hoping to help stop the filing of an eviction. Once an eviction is filed at court, she would have to pay an additional $135.00 filing fee which she cannot afford. She was grateful for our offer.
Sheila called wanting help for a deposit on a new apartment. It was explained to her that we assist in emergencies and a deposit is really an up-front cost of moving, so we would not be able to help in this circumstance. She understands our position.
3:00pm – As we were preparing to close for the day, our stranded friend Andrew who was here just prior to lunch came back again. We gave him bus tokens back and forth to the shelter for the night. (He returned the next morning and we took time to assess his situation in greater detail and realized his issue has more to do with gaining access to his social security money for July than needing a birth certificate. The debit card he uses was put on hold because he left California. We contacted Bank of America customer service center and after confirming his identity, they allowed us to explain the situation on his behalf. They will mail a new card to him at the homeless shelter here in Dayton, it will arrive in 5-7 days. Then he can get on his way to Pennsylvania which was his original destination. He was very pleased.)
3:00 + CLOSING TIME – WHEW!!! WHAT A DAY. (Just ask Katie or Nancy, or any other CityHeart volunteers!) Mondays have always been busy, but we are seeing more and more days of non-stop activity like this as our ministry grows and becomes known by more people in the community.
We hope to offer another perspective of CityHeart to the parish soon. This will be a presentation of the overall program, looking at the accomplishments we have made in our three year strategic plan, and what is coming for the future of CityHeart. Please continue to pray for all who are actively engaged in this ministry. It can be difficult to hear the stories and see people suffering, but in the end, serving others and giving hope is what Jesus calls us to do. Amen!