We spoke with the executive director of the Conway Ministry Center, Spring Hunter, about the struggles of homelessness and her hopes for people in need in Faulkner County. She and her staff are hopeful for the future and are praying that the community can lean into the mission that God is leading them into.
What is the apposed problem for homeless people in Faulkner?
"Faulkner County has no emergency shelter. If you are homeless today and need a place to stay tonight there is nowhere you can go."
How big is the problem?
There is a fast growing homeless population in Faulkner county.
Why is this happening here?
"Little Rock is losing shelter beds daily, and those that don’t make it in are coming to Conway to seek shelter. They come here because it is safer than Little Rock, but when they arrive there is no homeless shelter and little to no low-income housing. "
What is the community’s role?
"You have a special set of skills and those can and will be useful if you make yourself available. We’re not asking you to solve the homelessness crisis in Arkansas, but we are asking that you think about finding a way that you can assist in making life better for someone in need."
How do we create solutions for Faulkner County, specifically?
1.We build an emergency shelter with:
3. We come together as a community and form a unified force that cares for the homeless in our area.
Where are we headed?
A few days back, the MC received a call from a concerned pharmacist about a man she had just dropped off at the ER. The patient had gone into a local pharmacy where it was discovered that he needed immediate medical attention. She gave him a ride to the hospital where he was sitting when I met him. When the call came into the center, the urgency sensed from the other end of the phone was apparent. "He said he hasn't eaten for four or five days. Can you please just bring food?"
Usually, these types of calls are answered by Denay, the gatekeeper of the MC. She is the one who you are blessed to speak with first if you come by or call us. It was a chance encounter that I picked up the phone this day, and rather than try to rationalize this man's ability to get something to eat by hospital staff and work within my regular wheelhouse of problems and solutions, I felt a call in my spirit to simply take the food directly over.
My once homeless friend, "John" nearly died last night. This morning I find myself sitting next to him in the critical care unit. I am so thankful that the call I received about his condition wasn't what it could have been. The Doctor told us that he was lucky to be alive. My heart rejoices that I was able to sit, converse and pray with him this morning.
Today, I found myself in a familiar and frustrating situation. A woman came into the Ministry Center asking about a few of her needs; shoes for her work uniform at her new job and shelter. I listened to her story, she has been homeless for several months and how hard she had worked to get this job.
She told me she would be fine once her first paycheck came in, but right now she needed somewhere safe to go…somewhere she could study for the menu test for work tomorrow and shower so she could show up to work looking presentable. The shoes were a need we could meet, but for shelter, I had to tell her the same thing I tell people over and over day after day: “There is no emergency shelter in Conway or Faulkner County.”
A few nights ago I dreamed of my Mother's hands. Her long slender fingers draped over a chair arm. Why I dreamed such a thing I don't know. Maybe I just miss them, her, or maybe it was brought on by spending time with my older sister who seems to have captured the very structure of my mother's hands in her own. I find it a strange thing to dream of but as I sit here collecting my thoughts, I realize that maybe there is comfort and a purpose for it.
On the way to school this morning my 15 year old daughter asked me to explain the difference between sympathy and empathy. Bless her heart. I think she just wanted a simple answer, but...her momma works in the ministry of social justice.
I explained that sympathy feels compassion, takes genuine pity, and hopefully responds with some degree of comfort. Empathy, on the other hand, seeks to feel what the other person feels, relates personally and emotionally to the other’s circumstances. It feels the heartbreak, the fear, the injustice, and the desperation. It runs deep and responds authentically.
A few days ago I left the campus early to head across town for an appointment. I made my way into traffic and got stuck at the light at Oak and Harkrider. I looked over towards Walgreen's and noticed a guy flying a sign. "He's new", I thought. I haven't seen him around before. I wondered what his story was and was he homeless or an "entrepreneur" as I like to call them.
I scanned the horizon and saw someone I did recognize crossing the cross walk towards the man on the corner. I will call him "Jacob" for the sake of protecting his identity. I met Jacob my first summer with the Ministry Center. We had just launched the Storehouse and it was a blazing summer day with only one A/C unit working in that old building. I called Jacob's name for his turn to shop. "JAKE" are you ready... and saw a young man in a suit with sweat pouring off of him. He looked at me and said my name is "Jacob". I apologized and told him that I wouldn't get it wrong again. We spent some time talking while he waited in line to shop and I realized that he was both childlike and brilliant and struggled with mental illness.
As I watched him cross the street my mind reeled back to a day earlier when I saw him in another part of town. He was walking as always, his fist in the air screaming at a car that had cut it a bit close as it railed into a local fast food joint. To be honest, I probably would have raised my fist in the air and yelled also but I can get away with it because I don't look homeless. I also knew that Jacob was having one of his bad days because on his good days he wouldn't have said anything. He is one of the most gentle souls I have ever met.
Case Manager - Conway Ministry Center
near, comfort and guide. There is something that happens down deep in our soul when people that love Jesus lift you up and lay you and your brokenness at the feet of Jesus.
As I have thought about those moments...my mind drifts to our clients. I wonder if they experience that heavenly exchange of brokenness for hope when our volunteers and staff pray with them. We never force or require prayer with our clients but we make a place for it in every thing that we do. If someone is willing to venture into that space we gladly ask Jesus to come fill it.
Housed and unhoused... those with abundance and those facing food insecurity. Stability and poverty mingling together...African American, Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian all intertwined. Life circumstances are the great equalizer. We will all experience the death of the people we love, we will all experience health crisis' in one form or another. If we live long enough, we will all experience our golden years and the challenges that comes with our bodies preparing to go back to the dust from which it was formed.
We are all the same no matter how society likes to put us in respective boxes of class, housing status or ethnicity. We all need to be lifted up to our Creator. We all need to hear the Gospel message of a Saviour that loves us, that died for us and that wants all of our broken pieces.
We all need to experience the heavenly exchange of hope for brokenness that happens when Jesus steps into our midst because two or three are gathered together in His name.
Author - Mike Rush
and long-term drug addiction. He's between homelessness and residential security; between poverty and self-sustaining; between a lost significant other, and a life on his own.
So, we spent the day together and he volunteered his time on projects throughout. We talked about what could be a plan for his life. Get, and maintain, sobriety; maybe we could help you get into a facility. Obtain his Medicaid card, and his SNAP provisions, which our case management program could help him do. After those, secure affordable housing, just for you, where you could take care of just you.
I waited in the truck while he turned in his key, to an apartment on which he hadn’t kept up payments, to his landlord. I thought over his situation and prayed over his heart. When he returned, I said, “Just think what your life could be like when you’re sober, eating a good diet, and getting the sleep you need. Imagine that no one in your life manipulates you into doing something you don’t want to do. And you never make a decision out of guilt, or shame, or fear.”
Later, I dropped him, and the small bag he carried which held all of his worldly belongings, at Bethlehem House for a shower and maybe a meal and conversation. Before he got out of the truck I told him that I loved him, and that I was proud of the progress he’d made that day.
And as I watched him go, I hoped and prayed that he would follow through with his plan to stay at our warming station that night. And, that in the morning, he’d show up and we’d figure out another day together.
The CMC staff love to write and enjoy telling the story of the Ministry Center in our own unique way.
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