When faced with life on the street, community can offer shelter on the long road home. So when friends and neighbors of our church struggle with homelessness, we want to be there through all the twists and turns. Our Community Advocate office provides mentoring, life coaching, assistance in connecting with social service agencies, job opportunities, healthcare — and, most of all, friendship and support from First Church members to our neighbors in need.
Community Advocate started its work in 2015 through a special gift to the church. “At the time we had a number of friends (some of them members of our church) who were struggling with homelessness, or had previously been homeless,” recalls Charme Robarts, Community Advocate and DiscipleChurch Coordinator. “Rev. Page Hines and her husband, Bart, as well as a few others who were First Street Methodist Mission volunteers and I had developed good relationships with these folks.” Page saw the need for some one-on-one attention, a generous donor wanted to give a gift that would benefit the homeless community in some way, and Charme (who was previously Assistant Director of the Mission) enthusiastically stepped up to take on the new position this created. Thanks to their vision and your contributions to our annual Christmas and Easter Offerings that provide funding for this ministry, Community Advocate continues to make a lasting impact on everyone involved.
Our relationships start with the day-to-day resources such as healthcare appointments, visits to the Social Security office, and setting up phones. According to Charme, she’s had the most success so far in helping people connect with and understand their healthcare options and providing transportation. Plus, she’s made relationships with employers who are looking for ways to provide encouragement with work-life issues and has established stronger ties to other community agencies who are partners in working on the problems of homelessness (including the Mission which provides monthly groceries). While this is a great foundation, there is so much more to it than that.
”“Sometimes we carry around old storylines that need to be challenged, and it is best if we do the challenging.”— Charme Robarts, Community Advocate and DiscipleChurch Coordinator
“We all need someone safe we can talk to who listens and asks us questions about what we say and think,” Charme says. “I often ask people to think about the story they are telling themselves because sometimes we carry around old storylines that need to be challenged, and it is best if we do the challenging.” Depending on the person and depth of the relationship, they may talk about early family life, regrets, or unmet needs. “Ultimately, we try to focus on ways of thinking and doing that lead to a better now,” Charme adds. “People have a range of capacity to take care of themselves and their problems, and it is important for me to respect that.”
Many of these relationships are formed through our DiscipleChurch Community Breakfast and Room in the Inn (which provides shelter during the hottest and coldest months of the year), develop with invitations to visit over lunch and more, and continue to grow long after housing is found. When one man moved into an apartment we celebrated together, donated furniture, and offered financial assistance along the way. Another woman has been off the streets for eight years, working 30 hours per week. When her old car needed extensive repairs so she could get to work, our community provided for what she could not otherwise afford.
While we rejoice for those who have found new beginnings, the challenge of homelessness still remains. “Though we have several agencies working with people to provide help and resources, the biggest problem continues to be the lack of housing units available,” Charme explains. “Put another way, there are simply not enough apartments to answer the needs. We hope that Community Advocate delivers encouragement to people who are waiting for housing or who still need community even after they have found housing.”
On the long journey from street to home, community is what comes together to bridge the gap.
Read this story and more in CONNECT Magazine | 2018 Issue 2
CONNECT Magazine is your source for the stories of our FUMCFW Faith Community — and how each fits in with our Healthy Plate Discipleship. Pick up your copy in the Main Office and Welcome Center or read it online.CONNECT Magazine