I am spending what is likely my last summer weekend at the lake. It is a cool and quiet weekend, with the clouds hanging low and the sumac beginning to turn a fiery red. With the temperature heading toward a cool 72, fall feels like it’s just around the corner.
At the shelter office, we have started getting calls from people who are desperate to find a place to stay. They want to get on the waiting list for a shelter that is over 6 weeks away from opening. So many times in the last week I had to say, ‘ I’m sorry, we aren‘t taking names yet, check back in mid September.’ This was usually met with a slightly panicked sigh and a plea for other ideas.
This is the earliest we have started getting calls in the 6 years we have run the shelter. Times are hard and seemingly getting harder. Gas prices coupled with the quickly increasing price of food are hard for most of us, but can turn your world completely upside down when you are living on a fixed income. As our economy shifts, jobs that were steady and paid well are laying people off. One of our success stories from last season is back on the street after his well paying job laid off most of their newest employees and he couldn‘t afford his rent so to avoid an eviction he moved out and back to the street. And while the numbers tell us there is a surplus of jobs, the truth is that many of the jobs available don’t pay enough to keep one person , let alone a family, housed, fed, insured, and healthy.
I have mixed feelings about what lies ahead for this shelter season. I am excited because we are adding two new full time staff (a huge increase over the me- only full time staff!) and the thought of how that will help our guests and workload is so reassuring. But, I know already that we won’t have enough beds, we won’t have enough turn-over, there won‘t be enough affordable apartments, there just won’t be enough. We spend so much time talking to our guests and staff about abundance- in grace, in chances, in hope, in love. But practically, we know that with the tsunami of need on the horizon, we won’t have enough.
We are working on it. We are trying to move to a year round, 50 bed shelter (from our seasonal, 35 bed shelter). But moving up takes money, partners, a building and all of that takes time. I know that great things lie ahead, but in the here and now, I have to figure out how we do the absolute most with what little we have.
And so as I store the solitude of the lake deep in my cells like a squirrel gathers acorns for the winter, I am steeling myself for what’s ahead. What I know for sure is that there are new stories, new people, new successes, and new joy on the path and those new moments will journey next to the familiar, the hard, the scarce, the difficult. While I can’t see around the corner of the road stretched out before me, I know for certain I don’t walk it alone.