Rev. Drew Stockstill • Pastor, Christ Lutheran Church, Harrisburg

Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In February we’re lifting up homelessness. The current month’s mission focus is included in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.

In the spring I received a text from one of our Medical Outreach Nurses: “Pastor, I know we don’t normally do this, but I have a patient who lost his job and is way behind in rent. Is there anything we can do?”

At Christ Lutheran Church, we know well those who experience homelessness. Our Health Ministries clinics serve many homeless patients. Our mission is to provide for the basic health needs of our community. When a client has a housing need, we turn to one of our wonderful partner organizations, like Christian Churches United, who specialize in that kind of assistance. But during the pandemic, many we served who did not ordinarily have housing needs were suddenly facing dire situations because of the effects of the health crisis. 

Fortunately, and I might even add, miraculously, United Way of the Capital Region reached out early in the pandemic offering a grant for us to respond to the basic needs (housing, food, clothing, medical) our neighbors were now facing. Christ Lutheran’s mission has focused on health needs, but during this crisis we have been able to offer emergency support to help keep people from becoming homeless and put food on the table. The nurse who texted me was able to tell her patient that we would work with his landlord and get him caught up on rent. 

Many of our clients are immigrants who did not receive any assistance from the government stimulus. They were those who needed it most. That was the case with a family from Mexico with two young daughters. The husband lost his restaurant job in Hershey and within a couple weeks was unable to pay rent. We were able to cover two months’ rent and take the mother to get groceries. This family would have become homeless, but it didn’t take much to fill the gap and now they are back on track. 

Another family of five recently immigrated from Nigeria. Both parents quickly found jobs in local warehouses but were laid off for several weeks due to the pandemic. We were able to cover their rent for two months until their jobs opened again. Members at Derry Church also helped provide a wonderful Christmas morning for their three sons, including new jackets and bikes!

We provided rental assistance for one family when both parents lost their jobs. After months, the husband was finally able to find work but was then injured and out of work again. They just couldn’t catch a break and had no other options. For those who are trying to do everything right, homelessness can quickly creep in. 

We all know that homelessness takes many different shapes and the causes are unique and varied. The COVID crisis revealed just how vulnerable to homelessness many of our neighbors are. Folks who pride themselves on their hard work and ability to provide for their families are suddenly facing the very real possibility of homelessness. 

Thanks to the relationships our nurses and providers have with our neighbors and emergency support from United Way and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, we have been able to help even just a few individuals in their time of greatest need. Thanks be to God, and our village of support, and to God be the glory!