Two months ago, we woke up in a new reality most of us never saw coming. Overnight our doctors, nurses and health care workers had become soldiers fighting on the front lines of a war, protecting our communities and our nations from an invisible enemy. Our essential workers had become our celebrities, bringing us food, supplies and things many of us had taken for granted until we feared losing them. People who once were considered to have “low level” jobs - maintenance workers, street cleaners and more - became our rock stars, fighting the enemy on the ground level to protect those of us in our homes.
Nation after nation realized how incredibly fragile the world around us really is, and we realized - some of us for the very first time - that we are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us.
The plans we had at the beginning of 2020 have been forever changed. The way we lived our lives until this moment has been forever changed. Our plans are now dependent on a future that’s changing rapidly around us, one in which we can’t yet know the outcome.
At the Topeka Rescue Mission we have not escaped the tumultuous uncertainty of this time in history. But throughout everything we still know one thing: God has called us to be here for the homeless, the hungry, the poor, and the vulnerable. We know that COVID-19 does not change our mission.
It has always been our mission to keep people safe, and we realize “safe” looks different in different times. Today keeping people safe means “protecting the vulnerable” - and we are rallying together like never before because we are ALL the vulnerable.
For us at TRM protecting the vulnerable is nothing new. We believe our purpose is to be here for the most vulnerable and to stand with them in their moment of need, just like we always have. We don’t do it blindly or foolishly, but take as many precautions as we can and develop further calls for safety. We are working with the health department and local doctors and nurses to discover the best way to protect ourselves and those we serve. Social distancing is very complicated in a homeless shelter, but we are working daily to create new spaces to isolate those with symptoms of COVID-19, quarantine those at-risk or those who may have been exposed and create a minimum 6- foot distance between each of our guests.
We are having to face many new realities we have never faced before, from establishing priority shelter for only those in a five county radius, to providing in-house meals only for our guests and sack dinners and food boxes for the rest of the community. We are looking for creative ways to operate as our staff and volunteer numbers dwindle due to high-risk conditions combined with the concern that donations may drop due to millions of job losses across our nation.
But whatever comes, just like the rest of those on the front lines, we cannot stop. As potentially life-threatening as it could be for each of our staff, helping those in need is what we are resolved to do and what we will continue to do every day.
In times of crisis every one of us has to ask: Why am I here? What am I meant to do? In this time more than ever, many people in our community and around the world are unable to physically fight on the front lines. Many are told to stay home, practice social distancing and sometimes even separate from families and friends which can cause intense loneliness and depression. How can we help the most vulnerable in our communities when we can’t actually be there with them, and when we may be struggling ourselves?
Like always, it’s easy to get trapped in the thinking of “us” and “them”. It’s easy to feel set apart and lonely. It’s easy to separate those who work on the front lines from those who are told to stay at home. But those of us at TRM want to remind you it’s not “us” and “them” - it’s just US. All of us, together. With God’s Grace we will get through this together because our community has proven time and time again that they are here when the vulnerable need them the most.
At TRM our mission is simple: we believe now as always that we are called to go into the fire. We believe God will take care of us and help us withstand the flames, but even if He doesn’t, we will still care for the homeless and the hungry for as long as we can - because that is what we are called to do.
Even if you can’t be there on the front lines with us, you can stand in the fire with us. We pray for and value your support in whatever capacity you can give it - through donations, prayers, or following us on Facebook or our website to stay up to date with current news and needs. In the face of this new crisis we remember that the homeless are still homeless, the hungry are still hungry, the broken are still broken, and you are still here at our side, with us in the fire. †