Lawrence Street Shelter Posts

Faces of the Mission :: Reginald

Reginald looking upI stare downward at the sidewalk as we step past people living in homelessness standing and laying beside walls. For some, the walls act as support, providing a foundation to rest on, to sleep beside. For others, the walls provide a space to interact, to have conversation and ‘just kick it’ with her/his street family.

Despite their many differences, people experiencing homelessness all have something in common; two things in particular. They are all human, and they are all waiting, waiting on something, waiting on anything.

Our walk takes us beside the community garden. I lift my head and glance at the thermometer clinched to the side of the fence. The mysterious red liquid inside the thermometer is stretching toward the 95 degree line. Despite the heat, Jennifer (my colleague), Reginald, and myself are on a walkabout, headed for the nearest coffee shop.

As we walk, Lower Downtown’s lunch time traffic zooms and vroom’s past us; the breaks on a woman’s bicycle screech for attention; a Boston terrier, to our right, howls for someone to pet him. Amid the noise of the city streets is Reginald’s voice.

“I met my father when I was 18 years old, but he was a good role model to me. When I met him he didn’t want me selling drugs. He didn’t want me [out there] gang banging. He made me go back to school. He taught me how to read and write when I was 18. It was nice; he was a good man; he is a good man. He always taught me to be better, to strive to be a good man too.”

Reginald pauses. We’ve arrived at our table, located outside on the patio of Snooze. “I have two salted caramel lattes and a regular latte” says the barista, setting our drinks on the table. Reggie reaches for his, a salted caramel latte. He also reaches for a napkin. When he talks about his father he gets emotional; he wipes the tears from his eyes, and continues his story.

“My father was a mother and a father to me; my mom was a drugee, she lost custody of us when I was a child. I lost contact with everyone in my family…I only stopped talking to my father because of what I was doing at the time. He heard I was doing drugs and when he found out his face looked like he was disappointed…I feel like I messed up, like I ruined his name…I want to make my father proud. I would like to help juveniles like I was. I think that’d make him proud. A lot of them are in a big haze that they can’t get out of. I want to give them chances, give them opportunities. They need something to do, because in the neighborhoods that’s why we turn to gang-banging, because there’s not [anything] to do…I didn’t have no help either. I turned to what I could, and what I thought was right. Turns out gang-banging wasn’t right.”

“I used to be a drug dealer too,” Reggie says. “That’s all I used to do…the drugs I sold I turned to for some kind of comfort. I felt when I was doing drugs that I was happy, then, in just a short amount of time, I watched everything I had go away. My wife. My step kids. My job. I lost everything. I never wanted anything else in life than to be clean, again. I mean its like I told God when I was selling dope. ‘If this ain’t what you want me to do, give me a sign.’”

“He took everything away from me, everything, and now I’ve started to participate and actually do something with my life…I mean I’ve been down here [at the Mission] for three weeks and I’ve done no drugs…He hasn’t given [everything] back to me, but instead he’s saying to me, ‘you messed up kid, but you still have a chance. You can either fix what you’ve done and become better or you can continue to go downhill.’”

“When you talk about youth, you get excited, you get passionate.” I say. “Where does that passion come from Reggie?”

Reginald “Nobody helped me when I was a child, I went through [a lot]. If somebody would have stepped in I wonder where my life would be. I wonder the individual or the man I would have become. I wonder what accomplishments I would have already succeeded in, just what I would have been able to do with my life. It’s not right for anybody to suffer like I did. I mean, not many people survive being shot too many times, or being stabbed, or having your finger cut off. Why should people go through what I went through? We all grow up in bad places and in areas and situations that we can’t control, but we shouldn’t have to stay there. That’s why I get passionate, because why should a child lose their life because he or she has no environment from which to succeed? Why should a kid think ‘this is all I got?’ Why should they be like, ‘you know what, since I ain’t got [nothing else] I might as well give up.’”

“What about people living in homelessness? What do you want people to know about homelessness?” asks Jennifer.

“Not all of us are drug addicts. Some of us do have problems that stretch more than just drugs. A lot of us have mental health problems. A lot of us have trust issues. A lot of us have issues because we’ve never had nobody to back us up or to say you’ve done a good job. [A lot of us] have turned to the drugs because not only are we now homeless, but now we have lost everything. Some of us have lost the willpower to live, so we turn to what we can to find comfort…some people turn to God. Some people go to their family, but some people turn to the streets. Everybody has their own coping mechanism to deal with their stresses, and homeless people are no different.”

He’s right. The people we stepped past to get to this coffee shop are no different than Jennifer and I. We’re all humans. We’re all waiting, looking forward to experiencing something greater than our own story.

“You know, a lot of people look at us like we’re just a nobody. Most people don’t care who we are; they could not care less. They just look at us like we’re a face. I just want people to see that I came from a grinding area to a place of being loved, and that’s all I want. That’s all I’m waiting for; that’s what I look forward to. I just want to be loved…”

Faces of The Mission is a blog series written by Jordan Smith, a Next Step Coordinator at the Lawrence Street Community Center, offering insights and real life stories from people experiencing homelessness and hardships.

Preparing for Denver’s Fickle Weather 

As we prepare for a mid-spring winter weather advisory (can anyone say oxymoron?!), staff at Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Community Center, Lawrence Street Shelter and Fort Collins Rescue Mission are preparing for increased demand for our services.

Guests fill the Lawrence Street Community Center dining hall during a March 2016 snow storm.

Guests fill the Lawrence Street Community Center dining room during a March 2016 snow storm

As you can imagine, bad weather brings a lot more people indoors during the day and overnight. Here is how our facilities are preparing for this weekend:

The Lawrence Street Community Center’s dining room will be open throughout the day Saturday an Sunday. Additional food is being prepared for our normal meal times. Warm showers are at the ready, along with emergency clothing supplies. Staff will work to ensure that everyone seeking overnight shelter has a confirmed place to go.

The Lawrence Street Shelter anticipates filling all 315 beds and mats, as well as 325 mats at the Emergency Shelter (operated in partnership with Denver’s Road Home). Area shelter providers are already talking, ensuring that each provider knows where to send people in the event they reach their capacity.

Fort Collins Rescue Mission is preparing for a very similar demand on its services: increased meals and utilizing all of their available beds and mats. Fort Collins Rescue Mission provides more than 100 people a warm, dry and safe place to spend the night, including overflow mats which will be extended through April 30th.

As you brave the looming elements this weekend, consider how you might help Denver Rescue Mission keep these vital services available within the community. We ask you to visit our Donations page to learn how your generous donations can make a lasting impact at our shelter facilities.

Reaction to Clearing Homeless Camps Downtown – What is the Mission Doing?

This week in the news, you may have heard about the City of Denver clearing out homeless camps near Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter downtown at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street.

The Denver Post has the story here.

Photo credit: David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

Photo credit: David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting today, March 8, 2016, the City of Denver, Department of Public Works and the Denver Police Department began enforcing encampment rules along area sidewalks in the Ballpark Neighborhood in an effort to protect the health and safety of our community, including those who are experiencing homelessness.

Signs were posted in the area advising that public spaces must remain free of obstruction. Any items encumbering public spaces will be removed and placed into storage for up to 30 days.

NOTICE

Photo credit: Jason Gruenauer, Channel 7 News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than anything else, Denver Rescue Mission wants to help people who are experiencing homelessness get off the street and become productive self-sufficient citizens. We feel these encampments outside our walls on the streets of our city are significant health risks and create an unsafe situation.

Over the last several months, city outreach workers have reached out to those camping on the streets. Once inside our facilities, Denver Rescue Mission staff work to connect homeless individuals with important services and establish lasting relationships. We sleep up to 640 men each night at our shelters and serve nearly 1,000 men, women and children every day at the Lawrence Street Community Center downtown, a new day center for the homeless.

Other local organizations, such as The Samaritan House, also offer shelter and access to services for the homeless. A full list of resources can be found here.

As a Mission, we will continue to support our homeless and hurting neighbors in every way we can through emergency services and life-changing programs. We ask our community to join us in prayer as the city and those experiencing homelessness go through this trying transition.

Coming Clean

Shower

This is hard to admit, but I have not been able to take a shower at home for over a week.

When my wife and I moved to Denver last fall, friends opened their home to us so that we could have a soft landing while we looked for work. It was quite a blessing, and it’s worked out very well for us. It’s even allowed us to make the transition to buy our own place soon.

Three weeks ago, our friends discovered some leaking water behind the tub and shower, so they had to remove them both and tear out the damp drywall and insulation. Which leaves the bathroom with an obvious and significant problem: the tub and shower are gone.

Which leaves the bathroom with an obvious and significant problem: the tub and shower are gone.

Actually, the tub was on the front porch, and now is in the backyard full of dirt for a makeshift herb garden (it looks nicer than it sounds, I promise). It makes for a pretty funny conversation piece. But the reality is, it’s no joke. Thankfully, the house still has running water, so we’re not totally without options on getting clean.

Of course, you’ll have to forgive me as I spout off some #FirstWorldProblems related to having no tub or shower in the house, but it’s really hard to keep clean and feel refreshed when you can’t take a shower or bath at home. And it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve had to use the shower facilities here at the Mission several times (Thank God the new Administration and Education building has access to a weight room and showers).

But each time I get up in the morning and shuffle into the construction zone that is currently our bathroom, it reminds me of the people I meet down at the Lawrence Street Shelter. They have nowhere to get washed up either. And as embarrassed as I am, at least my situation is temporary.

But each time I get up in the morning and shuffle into the construction zone that is currently our bathroom, it reminds me of the people I meet down at the Lawrence Street Shelter.

It’s a sobering reality that simply getting clean is a near impossibility for most of our homeless neighbors, let alone getting access to clean drinking water and restroom facilities.

That’s why the Lawrence Street Shelter and the now-under-construction Lawrence Street Community Center are so important. The shelter provides a warm bed at night, but it also provides the homeless a dignified place to use the restroom, access to drinking water and a place to get out of harsh weather. For those who stay the night at the shelter, a fresh shower in a requirement before climbing into the 200+ beds to help keep all our guests clean and safe. And soon, the Lawrence Street Community Center will feature showers and more restrooms so that the homeless can have a dignified place to wash up and access to restroom facilities throughout the day.

You know that refreshing feeling of stepping out of the shower, ready to meet the day? Imagine having that feeling for the first time in weeks or months. That’s what the new Community Center will offer our struggling neighbors.

Imagine having that feeling for the first time in weeks or months.

So next time you step into the shower to start your day, remember our homeless friends and neighbors with me. And remember that phrase harkening back to the martyr, John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Because we’re all just a few short steps away from being in their shoes, and we’re all just within reach to help them get back on their feet again.

Lawrence Street Community Center Approved

Praise the Lord!

The  Zoning Appeal Board met this week and approved the building of the Lawrence Street Community Center.

We are so excited to have a safe place for the homeless during the day. A place where their human dignity can be restored. Where they can have access to simple things like bathrooms, water, and showers. They will not have to “hang out” on the streets or in alleys.

The community center will also help our employees build and foster relationships allowing us to connect people to services. It will be a pathway to becoming  productive self-sufficient citizens.

Our goal is to see lives changed and we believe the Lawrence Street Community Center will not only allow us to be a part of God’s plan to do that, but will make our neighborhood a better place for everyone.

Demo 1

Demo 2