How We started
Last winter Christians from a number of area churches joined forces in a day when we learned that there was no contingency plan or location for the unsheltered homeless to go in severe weather. When the first polar vortex hit, God’s grace and a lot of hard work brought resources and people together to meet that need.
After that first event, for the rest of the winter our activities were in response to extreme weather conditions when the temperatures dropped below 20 degrees F. Many clients we serve are especially vulnerable to dangerously cold weather . There were no government sponsored shelters at this end of Prince William County, so we opened"hypothermia shelters" with volunteers from these churches. Grace United Methodist was the location of the first shelter we opened. Since that first time, the location that we used was Manassas Baptist Church. It is the only church that has been willing to graciously open part of their church for this need. They also have showers and a washing machine and dryer available at this site, the old Marstellar Middle School.
MESSAGE FROM PASTOR MIKE CLEMENTS - 12/13/16
Dear Volunteers, I hope that all of you are having a wonderful Christmas season. It's a very busy time for all of us! Winter has come a little early for us this year. In the past 3 seasons, we didn't need to open the shelter until the very end of December. We've already had to open 3 nights and will be open this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I know that your heart seeks to serve the “least of these.” However, we seem to be in a pattern of having about 10 people signing up for shifts and about half that signing up for overnight shifts. It's, basically, the same people over and over. We just can't keep doing this. Jay, Janice, and I end up being there almost every night. I completely understand that we all have commitments and have to be at work. Those that have been signing up for overnights often come from work to stay at the shelter or get up in the morning and go to work after a night at the shelter. We currently have about 75 trained volunteers. About half of those have never signed up for any shift. We do everything we can to make serving at the shelter an enriching experience. We hear over and over how it has changed our volunteers' lives. We have plenty of food. We have a warm safe place. We need faithful volunteers to be able to keep this essential ministry going. If we do not have enough volunteers signed up for the next 3 days, we will not be able to open during a time when temps will be in the teens. I'm hoping that you can find time during this season to honor the birth of Christ by serving those for whom there is no room at the inn- or anywhere else. Our website is back up and running after a few problems. Please check it regularly for opening dates.
God's blessings to you,
MESSAGE FROM PASTOR MIKE CLEMENTS - 1/7/16
In our first three nights this season, we averaged about 19 guests per night. That means that 19 people, created in the image of God, were able to sleep comfortably in a warm building, enjoy hot meals, take a hot shower, and relax. It also means that they were able to get some of life's necessities- new underwear, socks, thermal underwear, coats, and other clothing.
Our volunteers jumped right into the new season, ready to serve. This is our third season serving the homeless of Manassas. God has blessed us with dozens of new volunteers, passionate about serving. We always make it clear to our guests that we are not doing this because we are “good” people. We're doing this because we love Jesus and are simply following him in servanthood. So, when our guests thank us- and they do continuously- we tell them that God is the one to be thanked.
Each of our guests is different from the others. They are homeless for a variety of reasons and it's not up to us to judge whether they are worthy to be helped. Jesus told us that whatever we do for those in need, we have done for him. He didn't say to judge them.
Over the last 12 months, several of our local homeless friends have died. There is no single cause of death. Alcoholism and drug use are certainly factors. We've lost friends in their 20s – 60s. Living outside is hard on the body. It doesn't take long for a small cold to turn into pneumonia. Our friends look forward to these nights of relative comfort.
I want to encourage you to take a deep breath and step forward to volunteer to work with our guests. I've never known anyone to regret that decision. It will change your perspective on life. Training sessions are still available and will be listed on this site.
This shelter is not the ministry of any one person or group. We are a group of local churches that have joined together to serve. As long as I am involved in this, we will always seek to continue that. People pass by our churches every day and don't think there is anything of value going on there. We want Manassas to see followers of Jesus-Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist, Pentacostal, and other traditions- working side by side. It's a powerful thing to experience. On behalf of our board of directors, I invite you to join us.