GOSHEN — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, local churches are continuing their outreach to help those who are homeless
The Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network is just one of the resources available for Goshen’s homeless population. Located at 502 N Main St. in Goshen, the INH works in partnership with more than 20 local churches offering an array of services for those in need.
Goshen’s homeless population is far from a new issue. According to Mayor Jeremey Stutsman’s official statement regarding the homeless population on the city of Goshen’s website, a number of different strategies are being taken within multiple organizations to help connect homeless people with helpful resources.
“This is an issue the city of Goshen takes very seriously, especially when we experience extremely cold temperatures. When we have severe weather, Goshen PD will notify those in need of their options. That can range from connecting them with local churches, Interfaith Hospitality Network, and even transporting them directly to the shelter in Elkhart if they wish. We will never leave anyone out on the street who is seeking shelter,” Stutsman said in his statement.
One church with a homeless outreach program that seeks to not only help those in need find food and shelter, but also get back on their feet, is the Goshen Church of Christ just north of the city at 61073 Ind. 15. Minister Brad Price views their approach to the homeless situation as more targeted to helping people avoid becoming homeless in the first place.
“Our approach has been to find people who are struggling, especially with basic needs like food versus making rent or car payments, and help them avoid becoming homeless. We have a desire to understand a person’s circumstances, so if we do not have the resources to help them, we may be able to direct them to others who can,” Price said.
Many of the churches in the Goshen area work closely with the IHN, whose director, Mindy Morehead, is eagerly looking forward to the future expansion of their facilities to include a new property where men, women and families will be able to find shelter and food.
IHN already offers 24/7 care of women and anyone with a minor in conjunction with the support from numerous volunteers and more than 20 Goshen area churches. Currently, every person who visits the IHN goes home with a unique quilt made by the Elkhart County Extension Homemakers in conjunction with a group of local Mennonite women.
“We really have a great church support system, I can’t stress that enough, I mean, 20 churches that each take two to three weeks a year to make sure our needs are met by providing everything from donations, time, shelter and food such as casseroles,” Morehead said.
Their main office and the women’s shelter are located on the second floor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Goshen. Additionally, the New Life Church in Goshen has allowed the organization to use a warehouse to provide a winter shelter for men.
“Last year we helped 123 different individuals and we have remained open during the COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, volunteer costs have gone up during the pandemic and staff is now doing the majority of the work,” Morehead said.
Karen Wellington, coordinator of the homeless ministry and elder at the First Presbyterian Church at 215 E. Lincoln Ave. in Goshen, expressed gratitude for all the volunteers working with her church’s program to provide food to those in need despite the limitations of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“For the first eight weeks or so we sanitized and took the necessary precautions, but were not able to let the homeless into the building. But when it started to get cold again, we slowly began to reopen, allowing them to come in and use the restrooms, warm up as well as receive a hot breakfast on Sunday mornings,” Wellington said.
Other homeless outreach programs, such as the one led by Pastor Al Kinsey of New Life Community Church in Elkhart, have been put on hold due to the pandemic. Kinsey and his wife Debbie have been leading the homeless outreach program through their church for more than 20 years, including offering weekly continental style breakfasts for the those in need.
“We offered everything from helping those in need find laundry facilities, a warm breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. We are hopeful things can return to normal soon. It was a tough call for us because we know the need is still there. but we simply don’t have the resources,” the pastor said. Some outreach programs are overwhelmed by the current demand for help in the community, struggling to help those in need while maintaining an environment which is clean and sanitized.
“We don’t have the current manpower to keep things clean and the homeless don’t have the resources to stay clean themselves,” elaborated Kinsey.