When the cold blows in, we know many in our city are without a warm and safe place to sleep. Bridgeway is a church committed to loving our neighbors, and we’ve been grateful to serve as a host site for Howard County’s Cold Weather Shelter.
Grassroots Crisis Intervention facilitates the weekly Cold Weather Shelter at local churches. This program provides overflow shelter November-March, as well as transportation, laundry, and connection.
The first night we opened our Ministry Center as the shelter, it did not seem promising. There was an unsettling feeling in the air. Individuals were isolated, and there was very little warmth of friendliness in the room. Then Simone, one of the lead volunteers, started up a game of Spades. Very quickly, people began to sit down at the table and participate. It felt like the whole atmosphere changed in an instant, all because of a simple game of cards.
From then on, we saw our volunteers serving the community in so many practical ways. They provided transportation to and from the Columbia Mall twice a day, offered laundry use, and served three meals a day. For extra fun, Bridgeway shared activities like facials and pedicures for the ladies, balloon animals and face paint for the kids, and a big group bonfire one night. Our Men’s Ministry decided to host our guests and watch a football game together!
One of the most inspiring and redemptive moments to witness, however, are the volunteers coming to serve who have previously experienced homelessness. A man who slept at the Cold Weather Shelter one year returned the next year to perform with his band. While guests sipped virgin piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris, he was giving back to the community that had served him. Another woman who’d been homeless for years in the past chose the night shift and slept at the shelter to make sure everyone was safe and in good hands.
It was a blessing to host the Cold Weather Shelter, and we were glad to hear that those who came had a good time as well. After eating breakfast, one gentleman said, “I don’t know what that woman did, but she put a lot of love into that food!” Another man was heard saying, “I’m feeling something. Do you think it’s the Holy Spirit?” One organizer from the Grassroots Crisis Intervention told me how much she appreciated our church, saying, “When I pull into an even and see Bridgeway is there, I feel less stressed.”
I know all of these positive moments are a response to God’s working through Bridgeway. I’m so thankful to our church for creating opportunities for us to serve our community in practical ways.