Over 4 years later and Jeff’s words are still clear. “I never would have listened if you hadn’t fed me first.”
He wasn’t like most of the men who have come to seek shelter. They all come broken whether they admit it is another thing.
There is no one type who comes. They aren’t all homeless as the assumption goes. Homeless only in that we’re the last stop on the proverbial block. Family and friends have tired of their empty promises or learned they can’t trust them not to steal and hock their widescreen t.v.
But Jeff had been living under a bridge. An overpass of I-95 to be more exact. He’d been out there sometime and I’m not sure what brought him to our doors. A moment of clarity, we say.
When we have an open bed and the most basic of criteria is met, men are accepted into our 6-month program. Most promise to stay but fewer than half will. We know that. We hope anyway.
Most of the time, the first thing the men will do after some filling out some paperwork is eat a good meal. We serve three meals a day to over 100 people each meal. Rare is the man who checks in and doesn’t gain 40 pounds during his stay. Rarer is the man who doesn’t need to regain some healthy body weight.
Upon intake, each man will get a voucher for clean clothes from our Family Store. He will be provided with all of his basic needs. A hygiene kit will be given so he can shave and have his own tooth-brush before the day is out he’ll enjoy a hot shower a be assigned a clean bed.
What person can give attention to instruction if he is hungry, dirty or tired.
There are no surprises here. Each man is made aware we are a faith-based program and there will be a Sunday chapel service and a bible study class he’ll attend. That is the extent of what we can require: attendance. Some will sleep through all classes including recovery groups. Again, we know but we hope.
Soup, Soap and Salvation is one of the early slogans of The Salvation Army. It continues to fit much of what we do, but it particularly is fitting to the Adult Rehabilitation Program. A program for men who have lost their way, often due to substance abuse issues, to receive guidance, purpose, meaning, and education to learn new ways to live.
Our desire is while they are with us they will come to a relationship with Jesus. We pray for them and with them. But our love isn’t conditional on their choices, just as God’s love for us isn’t.
This year The Salvation Army is celebrating 150 years in existence. Often times, this week in May is celebrated as National Salvation Army week. I’m surprised I haven’t seen Willard Scott give us a shout out as he often does.
There is a lot to celebrate in that at the core of who we are, is this:
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. – Mission Statement
We can’t do any of this alone as it takes an Army to reach a village. This Army is mobilized in over 100 countries and we’re on wheels in the US (and many countries) to meet disasters with the first responders, serving up soup, soap and salvation.
For more information on beliefs and practices of The Salvation Army, or locations of service, go to www.salarmy.org