Look Into the Eyes of the Homeless
Three and half years ago in an apartment, with cots borrowed from the Red Cross, Safe to Sleep hosted six women within a few days of opening.
Since then, some things have changed. Hosting its 1,000th guest recently,
Safe to Sleep now has their own cots and sleeping bags to offer homeless guests. They no longer welcome the women into an apartment, but into facilities offered by the gracious East Sunshine Church and Pathways United Methodist Church. What began as a handful of granola bars is now real food, provided by Schweitzer United Methodist Church.
The stories of the women, however, often remain the same in both their diversity and their struggle. Some women are facing health concerns, some are victims of domestic violence. Others have experienced crisis after crisis, placing them in a desperate situation. Several of the women suffer from mental illness or substance addiction and abuse.
Heeding the urgent call to help these unique women has led to even more changes at Safe to Sleep.
“With a new staff person, added this year, we can focus on more than just what happens between 7:30p.m. and 7:30a.m.,” said Romona Baker, Safe to Sleep Director.
“We’re now able to work individually with the women. We can help with securing housing and connecting them to other agencies who can help with health issues, pregnancy, domestic violence, jobs, and more,” she continued.
Safe to Sleep’s mission to provide safe, overnight shelter for women is carried out by more than 60 generous volunteers. These are men and women who willfully give up a night’s sleep, who make coffee by the gallon, and who lend a caring ear. They do all of this for the safety and security of close to 25 women each evening.
“Volunteering at the shelter is tiring, but energizing,” said Jan Pearson, a retired teacher and long-time Safe to Sleep volunteer.
“We learn to look in the eyes of those who may have once been invisible to us, and to understand how close we all are to a life-changing crisis or tragedy,” she said.
Safe to Sleep is not only celebrating three and a half years of continuous service in the Springfield community, but also celebrating the generosity of area churches and supporters of the program. In late 2014, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church secured a $10,000 grant from Thrivent Financial to help the shelter. That grant was then matched by generous supporters for a total of $20,000!