Operation Street Reach: Sharing the Warmth
It was 1:30pm on February 25th when I received a call from the Front Desk at the Topeka Rescue Mission to inform me that a lady who was unsheltered and homeless had come to them because she was in need of a blanket. She was camping somewhere near the Kansas River and, not only was she shivering from the cold, but she was also six months pregnant. Snow was on the ground and temperatures were in the teens.
She said that her husband had been at the Topeka Rescue Mission before and thought he was not welcome back due to his alcoholic past. This was their reasoning for remaining outdoors during the extreme temperatures. After talking briefly to the Front Desk staff, she left to return to her husband. Upon hearing of the couple, I looked up his photo in our database so that if I found him I would recognize him. I consulted with Barry Feaker, our Executive Director, and after receiving his permission rallied up another staff member to set out to find this couple.
We headed out under the Kansas Avenue Bridge and went straight out to the Kansas River where there are a number of camps, old and new. We spotted a single path of fresh footprints in the snow and decided to follow them. After nearly three-quarters of a mile, the tracks veered off of the water barrier path and down into a lightly wooded area. There we found a makeshift camp comprised of a tarp and some other items. We announced that we were with the Topeka Rescue Mission and asked if we could come closer to their camp. It was the couple we had been searching for. After they welcomed us, we ventured down and found the young woman and her husband gathered around a small fire which was burning in attempts to keep warm. He was laying on a tarp inside a sleeping bag. Both greeted us openly.
We let them know that I had received word that they were staying outside unsheltered and confirmed with the woman that she indeed was pregnant. We asked them if there was anything we could bring them or assist them with but they declined. We went on to share with them some of the resources available at the Topeka Rescue Mission. Not only was it warm and safe, I told them, but soon there would also be a hot meal served from the kitchen. The husband expressed concern regarding a past encounter at the Mission while he was intoxicated. I had already spoken with the Advocates at the Mission so was able to let him know that he was welcomed to come and meet with them to discuss coming back in. He agreed to do so within the hour.
My fellow staff member and I headed back to the Rescue Mission. It was about an hour later when I walked into the Main Lobby and found the couple we had reached out to looking much warmer and being treated like royalty by the staff that surrounded the Front Desk. They expressed their gratitude that we had reached out to them and were looking forward to a hot meal, shower and good night’s rest. I expressed my happiness on behalf of myself and the entire Rescue Mission that they had made the choice to come in. They both became registered guests of the Mission and received dinner, blankets, and a safe place to sleep. Instead of a tarp by a fire, they were now able to enjoy the warmth of the Mission which flows out from staff and volunteers who care.
Operation Street Reach Director