While the centerpiece of what we do here at Helping Up Mission is our 12-month residential Spiritual Recovery Program, we also have up to 50 men who stay here each night as part of what we call Emergency Overnight Services. This is the longest running program at the Mission – providing daily food and shelter for homeless men in our city. In fact, some 15 years ago (long before I arrived), it was decided that we needed to address the issue of drug and alcohol addiction if we really wanted to help homeless men in Baltimore. That is how our 12-month residential Spiritual Recovery Program began.
Our overnight guests arrive late afternoon each day and leave again in the morning. They get a shower, a clean change of clothes and a hot meal that evening. Then there is a chapel service led by a local church from the community. They sleep in one of our dorms – their new one will be the whole renovated bottom floor of our 1029 E. Baltimore Street building (to be ready next April!). The next morning they are served a hot breakfast and then leave the campus for the day. A man can come back again that night if he chooses.
Because the members of our Spiritual Recovery Program actually run our kitchen, laundry, housekeeping and security – one of their jobs is to serve the men who stay with us overnight. If we are doing things right, it is a positive experience for both. The men in our 12-month Spiritual Recovery Program have a chance to give back to someone less fortunate than themselves and have the constant reminder from where they have come. For our overnight guests, they get to see and hear how the long-term Spiritual Recovery Program is working for a guy who is in it. Frequently overnight guests inquire about joining our long-term Program.
Charles, a graduate and head of our security team, told me about Shawn, an overnight guest who had not been around for a while. He stopped by this week. Shawn now has a job, a place to live and a car. He was wearing a coat and tie when he stopped Charles to just say thanks for the way Charles treated him while he was here. In particular, Charles said, Shawn appreciated the respect that he was shown, even though he was just spending the night.
That is certainly the way it is supposed to be. We are so happy for Shawn and proud of Charles and his team for their good efforts. I know that is just the way God would want it.
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director
PS If you want to read the story of another of our former Emergency Overnight guests, see From Junk to Jesus: In the Blink of an Eye (2006) by John Michael Weber.