“No one wakes up and aspires to be homeless one day,” says Mary Anderson, one of the Care pastors here at Woodland. “We never know why or how people end up in the shelter, sometimes a single event is enough to cause it.” In October 2017, the Pioneer Press reported that Ramsey County has seen a 22 percent spike in people who are homeless this year. The number of families who’ve stayed in hotels long-term has doubled, and there are at least 85 families waiting for space at the county’s emergency family shelter. Homelessness is an increasingly serious problem in our area.
Project Home is a non-profit working to fight homelessness by engaging area faith communities to provide emergency shelter space and volunteer support for some 90 Ramsey County families facing homelessness. Nine years ago, a Woodland Hill’s congregant mentioned the organization to our Care Ministry and the rest is history. Since then, we have used the space in our building to house families for one month per year. This year, we have decided to host for two months, March and April.
“People are apprehensive sometimes,” says Leslie Hegstrom, our staff accountant and one of the lead coordinators of Woodland’s Project Home involvement. She mentions that families often come in with a preconceived notion of what “church” is and a fear of how they will be seen or treated. “We want them to not feel homeless,” expresses Hegstrom. “Often people will tell us how much they love it here because we don’t make them feel homeless or look at them like they’re ‘those people.'”
Showing God-inspired hospitality is a huge value in our interaction with Project Home guests–even calling them guests lets them know how we see them. Besides offering a safe, respectful environment for them to rest from the day, throughout the month volunteers from the congregation provide families with fun things to do (karaoke, movie night, art therapy and family photographs to name a few!).
Our efforts, combined with those of Project Home and the other faith organizations in the area, make a difference. Families that go through Project Home do find housing. In fact some families who have stayed at Woodland Hills in the past through Project Home have remained in contact with us, and one family even came back last year to volunteer!
These types of things happen. Your involvement in them make them as such. Please consider volunteer for one or more of the Project Home shifts during March and April. It’s a great opportunity to do service together with your family too. We need about 150 people to step up to cover 305 shifts. Volunteering involves some food preparation and a small amount of administration, but it mostly involves connecting and building relationships with the families that stay with us. Volunteers sign up for either a 5:30-8:30pm shift, or the overnight shift from 8:30pm-7:30am (weekdays) or 8:30pm-8:30am (weekends). For more information and to sign-up.