Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What part of "Safety Net" don't you understand?

I was trying to reach Ron Willougby, director of the Springfield Rescue Mission, today-- tried three times but he was on the phone, in a meeting, or just left.

With anybody else, I'd think he was blowing me off, but not Ron.
Ron is reopening the Taylor St. Shelter, which has been open the last two years as a winter-only.shelter for sober men. It had closed, as scheduled, on May 31, but just when the city has having to do some real scrambling to figure out how to shelter homeless people after their planned eviction of Warming Place shelter June 30, Ron announced that he was reopening Taylor St.

Seeing that the Springfield Rescue Mission does not take any funding from the city or state, I wondered if the mission had come into a windfall. Really, I just wanted to know how long Ron could keep it open.

"So maybe you can answer a question for me," I said to the very nice man who told me Ron had just left, "I understand you're reopening Taylor St?"

"Yes, we are," he answered.

"How long are you planning to stay open?"

His voice deepened over the seriousness of what he was about to say.

"Well, we have no funds. We're going through prayer to get the money."

"Well, good luck to you," I said, which, now that I think about it, was probably not appropriate to say.

I don't blame Ron or the Rescue Mission for reopening the shelter-- their motive, as it says on their website, is "to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the hungry, homeless, addicted and poor by introducing them to Christ and helping them apply the Word of God to every area of their lives." Fewer people will be unsheltered because of Taylor St.

But I continue to be astounded that Mayor Ryan and Gerry McCafferty, head of the Office for Homeless and Special Needs Housing, are willing to let the "safety net" plan and the well-being of the homeless depend on divine intervention.

(painting by deb hoeffner)

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