Over the next few months, we will occasionally be running blog entries about various ministries our students are involved in. The first is about Austin Place, a ministry long-time auditor Susan Hinesley is involved in. a women’s shelter called Austin’s Place. She describes it in her own words:
“Austin’s Place winter shelter for single women:
My church, the First United Methodist Church, 210 W. Church St., downtown Champaign (corner Church and State) is currently in it’s 8th year of housing single women overnight during the winter months. Austin’s Place operates from 8 pm to 7 am each evening and will remain in operation through March 31, 2015. We are providing a safe place for homeless women to rest their weary bodies and minds. Our guests often feel vulnerable because they are homeless for a variety of reasons, so we remain awake to provide them with that added layer of comfort that we will be watching over them from afar so that they may rest comfortably. Our guests are screened by the Center for Women in Transition/Courage Connections each evening.
The shelter is in need of 2 hosts to overnight during an (each) evening. This is a way that volunteers can serve with a spouse, a friend or by themselves and that we take anyone who can survive on 4 hours of sleep and, we do not limit based on gender or age. After a short training prior to your scheduled evening, the 2 hosts arrive at 7:45 pm and set up the welcome area. The hosts greet the women who arrive by an evening volunteer driver shortly after 8pm. The women set up their cots, freshen up and come out for a snack and decompression. Lights out at 10 pm, but it is often much earlier. At that time, one of the 2 hosts go 2 rooms away to sleep on a couch while the 2nd person sits up. About 2 am, they change places. At 6:30 am the women awaken. They clean up their cots, freshen up and have coffee and a snack. At 7 am, the morning driver will pick the women up and the hosts are done for the day. This is a wonderful way to offer compassion and hospitality to women in need. For more information please contact associate Pastor Cathy Minor at 356.9078 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or her assistant, Bonnie Berner, same phone. The web information is available at shelter-austinsplace.weebly.com, or at champaignfumc.org, the ministry tab. Your help is greatly needed and appreciated. God bless.”
Dr. Green adds: “I had the privilege of visiting Austin Place one evening while Susan was volunteering. I was impressed not only with the safety measures undertaken for the sake of these women, but also with how much the smallest actions of Susan and the other volunteer mattered to the women being served. The women in the shelter were clearly at the lowest place they could possibly be, and yet these volunteers were able to speak the love of Christ into their lives in a truly tangible way.”