Cleanup job

"Cleanup job" Continued...

Issue: "Effective compassion," Sept. 2, 2006

Many Christian organizations offer such encouragement and counseling, but CityTeam also makes it concrete by offering men like Buzz and Woody the opportunity to gain better living arrangements, on higher floors, as they progress in the program. On the first floor homeless men discard their dirty clothes in a small lobby, then get clean in group showers before settling down for the night on bunk beds in a large room monitored by staff in an adjacent lounge with camera surveillance and a large viewing window. All homeless men are welcome to stay for up to five nights, after which they are given the choice of enrolling in the program. If they do not, CityTeam has them leave, with the option of returning later.

Those who enroll move to the second floor, where there are slightly nicer bathrooms and showers and a large room with bunk beds arranged into quadrant-like structures that allow for semi-enclosed "rooms" with desks and bureaus. After remaining in the program for about three months and making good progress, program members move to the third floor, where they walk carpeted halls, lounge in a TV room, study the Bible in a slick conference room, and live three to four in a suite.

CityTeam also recognizes that those who grow spiritually will often have the desire to make up for missed education. It has a Compass Academy that features self-paced, computer-interactive courses that allow adults to develop basic skills, work toward a GED, or apply for college entrance.

CityTeam in Chester, like many other groups, depends heavily on volunteers to serve as counselors, but it is unusual in that it was planted by compassionate Christians from a city on the other side of the country. CityTeam began in San Jose and had great success there; six other cities across the nation now have local CityTeams. That may be the future of poverty-fighting ministries, with groups that succeed in one city striving to do the same elsewhere.

Victoria Holowink
Victoria Holowink


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