New underwear is the start to a good day even at the homeless shelter. Thank you Women’s March MN

Thank you to Women’s March Minnesota for a large order of new underwear in all sizes for men and women. And thank you to the people who played online Bingo (Or Undie-go as we called it!) to help raise funds for the underwear.

It’s a private creature comfort. It’s part of a regular hygiene regime that can’t always happen when you’re experiencing homelessness. It’s a gift.

And thank you for hosting a second night of fun on May 2 – Undies and Umbrella Drinks. Tomorrow night 7-8pm! It’s fun that makes you feel good. Cost is $15 and there are real prizes Tickets sold out last time around so sign up now!

What makes the sun come out for you these days? For shelter guests – a safe bed makes the sun come out.

Yesterday the sun came out and made the quarantine a little more bearable to me. To celebrate, Monica and I went on a walk in the woods. I got to eavesdrop on her phone calls during the walk. It’s more fun than it sounds; I got to hear what make this quarantine a little more bearable to other people.

Monica spent an hour making phone calls trying to find spaces in hotels for three guests at the shelters who are seniors with underlying health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to COVID19. Hennepin County has partnered with hotels in the suburbs to provide space to the most vulnerable residents. It’s not easy to get into these rooms; there’s a lot of competition. Spoiler alert, Monica was successful, but it wasn’t easy. I’ll just tell the story of one gentleman and I’ll call him Dave.

Dave is a vet with long-term injuries and underlying health conditions. He spends his nights at the Elim Church Strong Tower Parish shelters and his days on public transportation between the shelters and the VA hospital. He’s in pain. Spending his day on public transportation, he is invisible to the system and doesn’t realize it.

Monica made a few calls. Spoke to folks who didn’t have space and left voicemail for others. It was getting late. Doors were closing so Monica called Dave and suggested that he call veteran organizations now or better yet, show up in person to be more visible. He took notes and we kept walking when Monica got a call back.

It was a return call from someone at Healthcare for the Homeless. They were making dinner for their family but wanted to let Monica know that they found space for all three guests.  So Monica got to call Dave with instructions to call the hotel and transportation would be arranged. Success! For today.

Monica told Dave to recover for a couple days but then remember to connect with the veteran organization because the hotel is temporary shelter and the vets will set him up with permanent housing. But for the night – there were three hotel beds open for three vulnerable people experiencing homelessness and three beds opened at the shelter, which in turn meant an upgrade for someone who slept on the street night before.

What homelessness taught the CDC about PPE (poor people’s environments)

This could have been titled Underdressed for Company-but you know that storyline-though appropriate to how those experiencing homelessness might feel living in public without being on trend to today’s proper accessory.

As Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish shelters were visited this week by CDC staff from Atlanta and elsewhere, along with staff from the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Dept of Health, we were anxious for company yet too tired to rearrange the knick knacks. We wondered if they would quietly swipe the surfaces with a gloved hand (they didn’t) or have a list of recommendations addressing what we weren’t doing (they didn’t).

Much to our surprise, our company commented on (one woman’s) interior design and choice of reading material. They knew the only way to feng shui our space was to not answer the doorbell, leaving more people outside to live-and no one found harmonizing energy in doing that to create physical distance.

The CDC learned that in PPEs, there’s no time for dust to settle. They remarked that they were visiting to learn, and took fastidious notes to bring to our state’s Capitol and nation’s center of infectious disease research.

In the PPEs some of us spend our days, we know there’s a lot of opportunity for people to learn. We are eager for company when you can ring the doorbell for a visit.

The gift of prayer before dinner at the homeless shelters

Every night before dinner is served, a prayer is said or read by the guests or staff of Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish shelters. A prayer of gratitude for food or survival or a prayer of encouragement sent by community members.

In this video, military veteran, senior, and stage 4 cancer patient Scott (shared with permission), reads a prayer to guests from Pastor Melissa Pohlman of Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

It reads: Dearest God who always sees us and loves us, we thank you for this food we are about to receive and we ask you bless all those who have prepared it from the fields to the truck drivers to our table. Help this food strengthen us in bodily health and protection. Help this food strengthen us in order to share your love in this world that needs it more than ever. In all the holy names of God we pray, Amen.

If you would like to give the gift of a prayer or a meditation to those served by this shelter program, please do so here or at monicanilsson2016@gmail.com. Peace be with you.

Thank you for helping us with ordinary and extraordinary needs in the homeless shelters

We are all living the new normal. But after the COVID19 diagnosis last week, we are living an even more careful normal at the shelters. Luckily we have friends.

Over the weekend, we got a box of protective face masks from a long time friend, Billy Reilly of Fully Promoted. Normally they provide branded products and marketing services but during the pandemic they are using their suppliers to access face masks. Billy is a friend from grade school who heard we were I need and raised his hand to help.

He isn’t alone. We get donations daily. Later this week, Women’s March Minnesota is even throwing an online bingo fundraiser for our benefit.

Thank you for all you’ve done and thank you for future kindness.

In these extraordinary times, we need some ordinary things too – we need socks, underwear and meals. You can drop off socks and underwear any night from 6-9pm at the shelters. And you (or your group) can adopt a meal to deliver to use or make a donation and we’ll use it for dinner for a night. (You can donate for meals – or anything – online.)

An intimate gesture in a time of Coronavirus: a nervous and touching moment in the homeless shelter

When I learned a Covid-positive guest had stayed with us during the week, the first known case of prolonged exposure in a homeless shelter in Minnesota, and I naively realized there was no cavalry coming to help screen and notify guests, I called Dawn Petroskas, at Healthcare for the Homeless, who had one thermometer to spare. I called CEO of UCare Mark Traynor, a fellow graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall High School, who provided one volunteer. The one who offered to volunteer just happened to be their Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Julia Joseph-Di Caprio.

A highlight of a bad night came after 80 shelter guests wound their way from a line outside to a line inside. They saw an African American woman move to the corner of the basement with one thermometer in hand. I told them that a person of such importance was willing to volunteer her time, asking them how they feel-something that doesn’t happen very much, even by me, and I see them regularly.

Dr. Julia, as she was known, provided the intimate gesture of putting a thermometer in their ear, faces inches apart. When she had screened everyone, people clapped. People who were broke, homeless, exposed to someone with coronavirus, standing in another line, delayed dinner and sleep because we had one thermometer, mustered a thank you with ungloved and partially sanitized hands.

Since then, 20% of my staff has needed to resign for their own self-care. I have 2 masks left. But masks and thermometers have been ordered and donations are coming. Funding is possible when I have time to write grants. Volunteers are dropping off food and needed supplies some days. My phone and email messages are full. Jobs will be posted. Prayers will be said-by us and for us. Meditative moments will occur. It feels like we’re just at the end of the beginning but I’m going to muster a typed thank you with ungloved and partially sanitized hands and follow the lead of a bunch of people who who will sleep next to strangers on rows of mats tonight. Thank you for your help; we need it.

(Read the Minneapolis Star Tribune article: With coronavirus case, anxiety spreads through homeless shelter in northeast Minneapolis.)

Shelter guests find warmth and communion in the shadow of Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish

We are pleased to share a guest post from Elim Church’s Pastor Becky Hanson. Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish graciously host the homeless shelters…

For 136 years Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish have cast deep shadows upon the sidewalks and people on 13th Avenue in NE Minneapolis and continue to do so as shelters for those without homes. Every night  up to 40 women journey to Elim and 45 men to Strong Tower to enjoy the comforts of home that many of us take for granted: a warm meal, a shower and fresh clothing, a safe place to lay down to sleep. These people simply seek warmth, protection…normalcy.

As Christ journeyed to the cross during Holy Week, Psalm 91 reminds people of faith of that very protection: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.  That word shadow in the Hebrew indicates a place of care and protection.  In our culture many homeless feel marginalized, ignored and feel forgotten, and yet the Bible reminds us that  anyone who abides in God will find rest in the protection and care of the Lord’s shadow.

On Maundy Thursday Elim provided for an individual’s tangible needs as well as spiritual ones.As people stood in the shadow of the cross and the church, communion elements were distributed freely to draw together the rich and the poor, those with homes and those without…all who expressed need of the Savior’s protection and care.

For body and soul: distilleries turning spirits to sanitizers for homeless shelters

With all reverence to this being Holy Thursday and yet recognizing the practical in a time of a pandemic, thank you All Hands for turning spirits into sanitizer for the body as a modern take during Easter Week on turning water into wine for the soul. Both are examples of reading the crowd and giving the community just what is needed at the time. All Hands is made up of Tattersall, Du Nord and Brother Justus distilleries. We thank them for 10 gallons of sanitizer to keep guests and staff physically safe and feeling safe at many homeless-serving programs.  What a generous donation and tremendous innovation to meet our needs!

 

The helpers we don’t see – working at the homeless shelter

The first helper pictured (below) served our country; now he serves it again in the basement of a church in the middle of the night. The third helper became a physician in his place of birth and now serves his new homeland the same as the first helper, while he studies his chosen practice of gerontology. Next to him, his wife prepares her dissertation on homelessness overnight while obtaining her PhD. Helpers 5 and 6 were first in the nation and remain faithful to helping those Indigenous or traveled. These staff join those not pictured in coming to work each night, with fear, faithfulness, courage and the good fortune that helpers we don’t see have our backs.

This week, guests and staff of Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish shelters began wearing face coverings received through friend Camille J. Gage, organizer Liseli Polivka, owner of RETHINK Tailoring and Sewing Lounge, local small business and fabric provider DIGS, Ken Goldman, owner of Stunt Puppy and http://helpusmakemasks.mystrikingly.com.

We welcome the help and thank the helpers we may never see.

Buying dinner at the shelter in the time of coronavirus – a real gift!

First – thank you to the groups and individuals who have purchased, delivered, prepared and/or served dinner to us at the shelters. It nurtures our guests’ bodies and souls. Thank you!

Second – coronavirus has changed how each of us does everything. We are practicing self-distancing for our health, your health and the health of our community. So we cannot invite you in to serve dinner. We miss you and the sense of community that brought. But we are still need food. For many this is the one solid meal they will get in a day.

Given the changes we wanted to propose some new ways to adopt a meal at the shelters – especially after working with some very generous donors. (We didn’t realize how generous they were – so we wanted to offer some more affordable options!) Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Buy us dinner for $200 for 80 guests: We work with Freedom from the Streets (a great group with firsthand experience with homelessness) and MICAH Board Members. They prepare and serve dinners and cleanup each night. The money you donate pays for the food they serve. Interested? Please donate online through Tasks Unlimited and flag the HOMELESS SHELTER (last bullet point) as beneficiary.
  • Drop off dinner – that you’ve made or purchased. OR have dinner delivered from a local restaurant. Please contact Monica (612-405-5156 or mnilsson@tasksunlimited.org) in advance so we can plan. Also we may have food on site (such a bread or salad) to use.
  • Donate food. If you are a restaurant or grocery store with a surplus – please contact Monica (612-405-5156 or mnilsson@tasksunlimited.org) to make a plan. If you are at home baking and want to donate – still contact Monica. The shelter opens at 7:15pm; staff is on site at 5:30 for drop-offs. Depending on the situation, we may be able to arrange a pickup.

We appreciate you and your gift! The food pushes us forward; the community kindness lifts us up.

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