Main St Shelter Plan Update for the 2021/2022 Shelter Season and COVID19
It has been a long summer of Social Distancing and agonizing over how best to address our COVID Shelter realities.
I beg your indulgence in allowing me to explain some things from our perspective:
MAIN St Shelter is a Ministry of Still Waters Grace Brethren Church (now, an independent church) that was established
in 2004 for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of those on the margins through friendship and connecting those friends
with the wider Church Body, effecting change within those Bodies by modeling first century Church among them, free of the
trappings and "Church Craft" of modern business and consumer marketing models, polity, and privatized worship services
by calling churches outside their comfort and placing them directly with those in need. Its expected as a central part of
life together (the Church) by Christ. Its why, and how, MAIN St Shelter started.
We've had our challenges for the past couple of years as people have come and gone, making this mission harder as we've
tried to provide. As difficult as things have been, we never imagined how 2020 would end, as our biggest challenge. Those
challenges continue today, and in some respects have worsened as we are steadily losing support while there are those who
insist on risking the already vulnerable through other programs.
Our 2019/2020 shelter season ended with our closing the nightly mobile shelter program early, in March and placing our
guests into motels to socially distance themselves responsibly while working to find permanent housing. We received enough
donations to sustain everyone indoors through the end of April and beyond. We also, had the opportunity to put people into
boarding house rooms and apartments, as well as checking in on everyone periodically to assist with food needs and working
with local agencies for permanent housing support.
Last Season (2020/2021) we only offered Motel room accommodations and found this to be a more dignified and safer way
to help people without the risk of exposing them to COVID through normal dormitory style sheltering, but these efforts have
left us financially struggling while a regular flu season, coupled with what we expect to be an increase in COVID cases, complete
with new variants is approaching.
After a lot of consultation on health matters, considering our biblical mandate, our volunteers, our guests and all of
the various dynamics ranging from mental health to sanitary issues and hygiene, we believe it would be negligent, in fact,
immoral, for us to risk our staff, volunteers and guests in a confined mobile shelter, sharing space including bathrooms and
sleeping locations. So at a time when we are already challenged in so many ways, we still need to try to provide safety, through
the Church at large.
We have lost substantial support over this past year, largely due to a new competitive spirit that has risen within our
local Church Body, and an unwillingness to treat our homeless community with the dignity that they would reserve for themselves.
Its sad to say that we are close to being unable to continue or even open. We have worked in ministry to the poor and homeless
for nearly 30 years, and operating through all the risks of running our Homeless Shelter for the past 16 years, developing
a body of expertise and local paradigmatic understanding that has been largely ignored over the past 3 years, opting to maintain
a model that risks those we serve. This medical crisis has forced us to reevaluate who we are as the Church. Are we willing
to risk our weakest members for the comfort of our programs and for how we have always done thing? Are we willing to put
God to the test; to tempt God? We have concluded that it is immoral and irresponsible to do so, and we will not risk our
So, this season we will continue to adapt and be different...
Normally, we occupy a church space for a month at a time, providing dinner each night through volunteers, with staff monitoring
guest as they sleep all night long, and provide breakfast each morning. That cannot happen this year, so we are going to attempt
to provide motel accommodations as we did at the end of the 2019/2021 and last year; both Shelter Seasons, and our operations,
and criteria have changed to accommodate this:
> We will refer all guests first to the 2-1-1 system within Montgomery and Chester Counties.
> Accommodations through MAIN St will be for individual rooms at several local Motels, within their availability,
and for one week at a time. Since there are no night staff monitors (like in the shelter), guests will need to conduct themselves
appropriately as the Motel(s) have the right to evict. We will simply be providing funds for their stay.
> There is significant cost involved with this. Last year, individual accommodated cost approximately $500 per hotel
guest, per week. This year we anticipate the same cost associated per individual.
> We will accept people for funding on a case-by-case basis, depending on our budget, donations ongoing, and their
ability to stick to a plan for obtaining permanent housing.
> There will be a formal intake process with a minimal amount of paperwork.
> The process for eligibility (which is not a guarantee of acceptance) is to call 610-455-5333 to obtain an appointment.
> We will not be accepting referrals from outside agencies.
In the past few years, certain agencies and organizations have used us as a "dumping ground" to "warehouse"
the people they would not respond to, leaving us with their most difficult cases, trying to address the most vulnerable people
with very high and desperate needs, on our very small budget and with very few solutions. For four years now, one agency
who has the responsibility and the budget for addressing these needs through "rapid re-housing" has not offered
anyone who they had referred to MAIN St in the past, help to leave our shelter after arriving with us. We no longer can afford
to do their job for them.
> We will not be providing evening dinners or morning breakfast, so donation will be accepted for NON-PERISHABLE food
to be boxed and delivered as groceries periodically to guests.
> We will not be accepting any bedding of any kind this year; blankets, sheets pillows, etc.
> We will accept Toiletries; shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc.
> We will accept all of the items listed on our Help Projects Page.
Click HERE for our Help Projects Page.
> We will need periodic volunteers to help package grocery boxes for delivery to guests at hotels, distanced appropriately
and masked per CDC Guidelines.
Click HERE to Volunteer.
> We are in desperate need of even more financial donations at such a time where our funding has decreased and we have
You can contribute online HERE, and discover other ways to contribute to the MAIN St Shelter project this season. Please consider
ongoing support options too.
Its been a challenge to capture all of this and we are certain thing will change ongoing as we try to adapt to new challenges.
We are still continuing MAIN St Communities subsidized housing, where staff and transitional housing remains unchanged by
COVID, and we are trying to continue Housing Assistance where we are able.
So, these challenges are pretty steep, and our prayer is that we can continue to provide at a time that is more desperate
than normal, and when we are operating with far less.
Thank you to everyone for your patience during this difficult time and for your continued support of our most vulnerable.
We were overwhelmed with your response when this all began, and we are hoping that the same concern will rise again, now as
we plan the 2021/2022 Shelter Season. I am personally full of thanks for how many of you have shown that the true nature of
Christ is still alive and active in our world!
Please pray for these efforts, with an open ear toward, "LORD, what would you have of me in all of this" as we thank
God for the rare privilege to serve with Him. (Matthew 25)