Night Shift Thoughts
As I write this, it is the middle of the night. I am "last minute" working an overnight shift at the shelter. As the clock ticks towards 4:30 am, it is finally peaceful in the hallways and I am working hard to stay awake. The coffee is past it's prime and while the hall table full of sweets taunts me every time I walk by, I decided writing might help me stay awake better than a quick sugar high.
We are 3 weeks into our 6th shelter season. It's hard to believe how much this organization has grown over the last 6 years. I look back on our early days and I wonder how we did it. Every week was in a new church building. We settled into fellowship halls and Sunday school rooms, praying that the camp cots would hold up. At the end of the week we would load up the trailer with all of our gear and guests belongings and move to the next space. There were some really beautiful things that happened in those days. Churches who were hosting took us in wholeheartedly and there was a sense of great pride in extending radical hospitality to our guests. And while that was a wonderful way for congregations to tangibly live out the call to love their neighbor, it was exhausting to our guests. Camp cots, while better than the street, didn't provide a great night's sleep. Each church ran things a little differently and while we were nimble and traveled lightly, the constant changing took its toll on guests and staff alike.
I will never forget when we purchased real beds for our first single site. A returning guest told me that the beds were magical and that they hadn't had that good of sleep in months. Those first beds are starting to show some wear and tear- I think of all the bodies wracked with trauma, addiction, hopelessness, and loneliness that have found comfort on a mattress dressed with handmade quilts and multiple pillows. If beds could talk I imagine I would hear stories of restless sleep night after night eventually leading to peace and true restorative sleep.
Six seasons in and we now have 40 beds. Most of them are full tonight. As I have walked the halls I have heard those who are still tossing and turning- seeking restorative sleep. The rustling of sheets and blankets mixes with the deep snores of those who are too exhausted to do anything else but sleep or who feel safe here, drifting into peaceful rest. In about an hour or two it will be time to make the rounds to wake guests up- to fuel them with coffee and cereal and send them into their days. At the shelter office, it will be a constant string of calls from those seeking shelter, guests stopping in for care coordination, community members offering donations, and staff trying to keep track of it all. Over the course of 6 years, we have become an anchor in the community. From 25 beds and a trailer to 40 beds and a drop in center, we continue to listen to the needs of our people and aim to be that calm place in the chaos. The place where you will be greeted, called by name, and treated with dignity. No matter how much we grow and change, these will remain our foundation.