Vinnitsya City Homeless Shelter
Right after we
moved to Ukraine
(July 2007), we sought out a relationship with the Vinnitsya City Government.
Our first contact was a Prayer Walk ministry every Monday morning, which we did
rain, snow, or shine for 2 ½ years, when we moved out of the city. Through the years we developed a great
relationship with the Social Services Department and they helped us establish
non-profit charity organization, Vinnitsya – Heart of Ukraine.
Through our contact
with Social Services we’ve met numerous times with many department heads and with
Mayor Grossman regarding the homeless, addicted and needy. They have not only become aware of the
problems through our discussions, but have learned about the true needs and
have in most cases disregarded the many stereotypes of these people.
In 2009, the
city invited our ministry to feed and serve at the Emergency City Winter
Shelter (tent). We feed two hot meals a week, provided minor medical items,
shared blankets and winter clothes, etc…
In late 2011, Vinnitsya City approached us about cooperating
with them in regards to a Homeless Shelter for the city. In the past they had offered up potential
buildings but only half-heartedly and only to help us, but now the focus was
different – they wanted a cooperative effort ! The agreement calls for them to provide a
building, remodel it, provide assistance with governmental issues (permits,
inspections, etc…) and then to provide social services at the center as
needed. Our part of the agreement would
be to provide the entire program, volunteers or workers, and all the
furniture/equipment. Since Laura worked for the USA government in contracting rehab
type facilities she was able to create a draft contract for the project.
The city offered
up an unused building of Hospital #2 in ‘Old City’
as a potential site. We visited the location and it’s suitable for a smaller
Homeless Shelter. We then came up with a
usage plan and presented it to a few of the Deputy Mayors and Department
Heads. They were excited at the plans
(Mark did them on Visio and they were very professional and complete) and asked
if they could give them to their Facilities Department. The facility would provide approximately 40
beds, shower facilities, clothing exchange and nightly meals for homeless and
needy men and women. Educational
programs, addiction recovery groups, etc… would be provided as well as
assistance with identification or medical issues.
We have had a
few more meetings regarding the Homeless Shelter since then and things are
progressing, but slowly. There seems to
be a question about the land attached to the building and the city has had to
take the issue to court to settle. In
2011, the City Council has approved the project and use of the building. Once the legal issue is handled, then comes
budgeting and finally construction plans.
In the mean time,
we are talking about the idea of a Homeless Shelter with our feeding guests to
help them process the possibility of this kind of help. We are also planning for the program,
furniture and equipment needs. Feeding Program:
winter of 2008, we began a feeding program.
Initially it was only bags of food staple items for 4-6 people, but it
grew to over 26 bags of food. In 2009-2010, we began a hot meal feeding
program and phased out the food bags at the end of the winter. Initially we had only one feeding site, but
eventually added second one. For the 2010-2011
winter, we changed sites (new construction) and added a second day; 2 sites 2x
a week approximately 100 meals served each day.
2011-2012 winter we added a 3rd site and an additional day. Currently Vinnitsya – Heart of Ukraine &
Ukraine Ministries are feeding on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3 locations: 1)
(New) near the train station; 2) Near a recycling center (3rd
year to feed here); 3) Near two recycling centers (2nd year to feed
here). As of January 2012, we are
feeding over 170 meals a day, that’s over 500 meals a week. There are several incredible aspects that go
along with this increase in feeding:
We’ve accepted several new clients at David’s House Rehab
Center through the
feeding sites (about 80-85%), as their trust in us grows due our faithfulness
in feeding and our relationship building with them.
At the first site, near the train station, the guests are almost all
homeless (not needy who have a government assigned apartment or retirees) and
the numbers have grown from 6 to 35
in just 8 weeks.
Many of the needy and homeless are opening up to us and sharing their
needs for clothing and other things; this goes against the strong cultural
practice of putting on the mask, appearing like everyone else and not needing
anyone’s help. Breaking through the
homeless people’s suspicion has been really difficult here in Ukraine.
We prepare all the hot meals at David’s House Rehab
Center and then take the
meals to the locations where the homeless, needy naturally gather. Almost all the food used in the hot meals
comes from the crops raised by David’s House, as well.