BY DONNA WESTFALL
On Friday, January 25, 2013, my husband, Doug, and I spent 45 minutes discussing the issues surrounding homelessness in our County with Director Mike Justice and his assistant, Daphne Cortese-Dean of OUR DAILY BREAD MINISTRIES and learned about the first death of this winter season. A woman. She had alcohol problems. She was homeless and froze to death.
Our city has no homeless shelter. Our county has no homeless shelter. The last report the City Council received on homelessness in 2012 was shocking. Over 500 homeless in our area and growing.
Are we without a heart? Do we throw people away like trash in the dump because of their addictions, mental/emotional problems or hard luck? I guess so because no one is stepping up to the plate to try to solve this problem.
Are there solutions? You bet’cha.
But first, let’s walk you through what it’s like to be HOMELESS IN CRESCENT CITY.
Per Mike Justice, Director of OUR DAILY BREAD MINISTRIES, “These people are long time residents who have run into hard times. Usually a homeless situation starts when you can’t pay the power bill, then the water bill, then the rent, and then you’re out on the street.
So, let’s say you’re now living in your car. You don’t have alcohol, drug or gambling problems. But, last year you had a trip to the hospital by ambulance and it put your already fragile budget into a tailspin.
Where do you go to take care of basic needs?
How do you keep clean? During the day, you can enter a public restroom and try to wash up. What about at night time? You may be out of luck. Bathrooms are locked.
Where do you go to the bathroom to urinate/defecate? Same thing.
Where do you park your car so that you are not disturbed by vandals or police? That becomes dicey. Maybe you find an abandoned house or building and break in. You have shelter for a night. Maybe a couple of nights. Maybe a parking lot. Maybe not.
What happens when you run out of money to buy gas and food? Since the city has a non-solicitation/no-pan handling program in place, you can no longer legally stand on street corners with a sign explaining your need. How do I know? I was one of 5 council members who voted to put that into place. People of the community were getting hassled and scared by pan handlers.
What do you do when you’re cold, dirty and starving. You can try the local churches, Red Cross, Community Action Network (which is rumored to be closing within 60 days) for help. Finally, someone tells you about OUR DAILY BREAD MINISTRIES at 1135 Harold Street. There, three nights a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you can receive a hot meal. You may or may not receive a voucher for a free shower depending upon their supply. But, for $1.25 you can go to the municipal swimming pool by the Cultural Center in Front Street Park for a shower, but don’t expect to be welcomed if you look like or smell like a homeless person.
What happens when your clothes are wet or stolen? You can get free clothing at a variety of places. That’s one thing our town has an abundance of. Actually, a 12 cubic yard bin of used clothing is thrown in the dump each week just from St. Vincent de Paul’s Thrift Store. It’s hard to give clothing away to Thrift Stores. See article dated November 29, 2012 titled: AFTER THE YARD SALE.
What about the churches in our area. While many put on programs and meals, it’s not consistent and a person could die of starvation if they had to rely on the churches. Almost every church in our area has a fellowship hall, or a large room that could accommodate 10, 20 or 30 homeless people easily. But, it’s not happening.
How do I know? For 2 years I was part of a prayer group that met at the Nazarene Church consisting of pastors and ministers. For 2 years I tried to get some interest in the churches opening their doors during the winter months. I explained that in Ojai, (Ventura County), they continue to run a successful program for the homeless going on over 30 years now. Each night a different church would be host to the homeless. A mobile van would drive up with a portable shower, bedrolls and blankets. They had a 2 man team checking people in each night. Requirements: No signs of drug or alcohol use and you were checked in by 6pm. Dinner, as well as breakfast, were provided by the congregation. You were checked out by 7 am the next morning. It was a one night a week commitment for the churches.
There was no interest in this community. While many of the pastors, priests and ministers may help out the homeless on a case by case basis, there is no unity on the subject of homelessness in our community among the churches.
Since I don’t stop looking for solutions, I continued to look for programs that were working. I found OUR DAILY BREAD MINISTRIES (ODBM) and Mike and Daphne. For seven years they have been helping the homeless in very practical, daily ways.
Q. What does ODBM do?
A. ODBM serves a free hot meal three times a week to anyone who comes, unconditionally. By doing this we are inviting our guests to the “table” of God’s free grace. For those who request it, we also offer a listening ear, counseling, prayer and some physical necessities like clothing, hygiene products and shower passes. Finally, for those who are seeking a way out of destructive patterns like addictions or self-limiting behaviors, we offer free Life Recovery counseling groups led by a trained Christian addiction counselor. Many attendees become volunteers at the ministry.
Q. Isn’t this the same thing other organizations do?
A. No. While other ministries provide food,in a box or bag, ODBM is the only one in Del Norte County that offers hot meals to any who need them without restrictions. We do not function like a social service agency, with applications and waiting lists; our assistance is limited, but it’s free and immediate. Addiction and counseling services are offered elsewhere, but ours are free, Christ-centered, comprehensive and professionally led. There are many needs in our community, and other excellent organizations providing services-ODBM is meeting needs that are not addressed by others.
Q. How do you pay for this?
A. ODBM is funded solely through donations. We receive no government grants for this work because we never want to compromise our gospel mission by meeting a grant’s prohibition on religious proselytizing. We welcome donations of cash, food and cleaning supplies. You can make a secure cash donation using Paypal at the following link: http://dailybreadcc.org.
Q. Are donations tax-deductible?
A. Yes, ODBM is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization under the umbrella of United Evangelical Churches. You will receive a receipt for all cash donations at time of donation (upon request) or the end of the year which ever works best for you. In-kind donations are also tax-deductible; receipts are available upon request at time of donation.
Q. What do you do with the money I donate?
A. Cash donations pay for basic ministry expenses including rent, utilities, food insurance, maintenance and the salaries of a full-time Director and part-time staff. Proceeds from the Angel’s Nest Thrift Store also support these needs.
Q Are there other ways I could help?
A. Yes! We always need volunteers. If you have a particular gift you’d like to share with us, like retail sales experience or office administration, or if you’d like to help cook, serve or clean, please call us. If you’re part of a group that would like to offer a volunteer team, we’d like that too! To volunteer, call Mike Justice at 457-2269 or Daphne at 954-7319.
QUESTION? Why doesn’t OUR DAILY BREAD MINISTRIES GET CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) FUNDING LIKE CAN?
Because we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we didn’t, we could qualify for funding.
MONEY, FOOD ITEMS, TENTS, TARPS, SLEEPING BAGS, BLANKETS, AND VOLUNTEERS.
What other things should we be aware concerning the homeless in our area? We have to stop the quality of life laws that criminalizes homelessness. While some homeless are criminals and steal as a way of life, the vast majority are not. They’re looking for a place to sleep, to keep dry and to have something to eat. It takes 365 days to help turn around the life of a homeless person to the point where they can become a productive member of society again.
Are we going to let more homeless die out in the freezing weather, or are we going to do something about it already?