Well We’re Making Do in Allentown

I had trouble sleeping last night. Below freezing temperatures arrived early, about 10° below average for this time of year. I couldn’t help but think of those who didn’t have a warm place to stay. Unfortunately the city of Allentown’s Warming Station isn’t ready to open, and won’t be ready to open as planned on November 1. Again. Wouldn’t it be great if the Warming Station (WS) were so well-funded, so well-planned, and so well-prepared that it could have opened early in response to this cold snap?

Why isn’t it…
          …well-funded? Actually, I’d say none of the agencies, organizations or churches that work with those who are homeless and poor has enough money to do what they need to do, much less to take on another project. The Lehigh Conference of Churches’ Board decided they could not manage the WS this year because of a significant funding shortfall. No one else came forward to manage it, probably because they don’t have enough funding for their current needs either. Everybody is scrambling for funding these days. Still they make do as best as they can.

Why isn’t it…
          …. well-planned? The Conference of Churches’ decision came late in August, so the City had to scramble to find a manager for the WS. Kudos to Mayor Pawlowski who recruited someone with considerable experience and expertise to manage the facility. But between the lengthy contracting process (which necessitates waiting to reveal the new manager’s name) and the inexplicable delay in maintenance and repairs to the WS itself, the current estimate is they’ll open by November 8 – an improvement over the initial projected date of November 14.

However, with the frigid weather upon us, Zion’s Church elders and deacons once again decided to provide a “stopgap” warming station beginning November 1. So now we’re scrambling to find funds to pay for additional staff, at the same time as we’re scrambling for funds to get our breakfast ministry to the homeless up and running. But of course, somehow we also will make do.

Why isn’t it…
          …. well-prepared? In some significant ways we are better prepared than last year. Some of last year’s problems, like storage for personal belongings at the WS, and plans for sheltering during a snow emergency, have been addressed. Also, this year the Coordinating Committee has an active role in providing support, sharing ideas and wisdom, and pooling resources to strengthen our work with those who are homeless as we enter the warming shelter season.

But everyone on the Committee has added these bi-monthly meetings to their already too-full schedules and have gone “above and beyond the call of duty” as caseworkers, nurses, program administrators, clergy, etc. Somehow it will come together, but Corinne Feldman’s question to the community last winter still hangs in the air: “Who’s responsible?”

Maybe I’m idealistic to believe we shouldn’t have to scramble at so many levels to provide these basic human services to people in need. But then I realize: we have become like those we serve, who also have to scramble every day to survive and make do with so much less than they need.

So we’ll keep scrambling, and we’ll make do. I just hope that is enough in this coming winter season.

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