Since the closing of Winter Homeless Shelters in the Bloomington Community, Genesis Church has been giving homeless residents a new shelter for the summer season.
What used to be a church picnic area is now an outdoor homeless shelter. But unlike other shelters, residents are not screened for drugs or alcohol and are not turned away if they arrive under the influence.
Jackie Strange, Genesis Church’s Volunteer Coordinator, called it a low barrier shelter. “We don’t have breathalyzer tests or anything like that. But we do have the requirement that they do not have the alcohol with them during their stay here. During their check in process, they put those things in their backpacks, we put their identification information on them, and store them overnight so that we have those secure for them.”
Once checked in, residents are assigned a cot to sleep and then an opportunity to engage with other residents and volunteers. “When the guests get here, they usually put their things on their cot that they’re going to need for the evening and head out here,” said Strange. “We have the food out here and we sit out here and talk and get to fellowship and just hang out and get to know people a little bit.”
As volunteers get to know the guests, Strange said right away the negative stereotypes of homelessness are erased and the lines between homeless and non-homeless quickly blur. “They’re just people, you know,” said Strange, “I think the statistic that we’ve recently seen on the national news is that 60 percent of Americans are two paychecks away from being in need of a shelter or are without an income. And yes, there are some people who for this is a life-style but there are many people within this population who are simply here because of hard times.”
The shelter that began as a 30 day trial has officially been extended until the end of summer allowing Genesis Church to not only provide shelter but also a home.
“The things that we want to hang on to are the things that they tell us are really good about it and I think the most powerful comment we’ve gotten from a guest is that it looks like home and it feels like home.”