The Beacon Bulletin
Volume 1, Number 3, April 2015
Beacon 5K Run/Walk coming
Saturday, July 25
Belleville West High School
Save the Date!
More Information coming in the
May Beacon Bulletin
Lessons from Randy
Randy was a regular at our Relational events, sharing in lunch and worship. A lot of people in Belleville knew and liked Randy. He was homeless, and had been living on the streets for twenty years. He was smart, friendly, and helpful, and a talented musician. He was a private person, too. He resisted attempts to help get him get off the streets. He revealed nothing about his past or his family. He also suffered bouts of depression and alcoholism. A couple of weeks ago his body was found near a dumpster behind a convenience store. The coroner conducted a futile search for someone in his family to notify of his death. The coroner was looking in the wrong place. We are Randy’s family. We were there at his funeral.
Since Randy’s body was discovered, he became a celebrity of sorts. Many of us who had assisted him over the years came together to insure he had a dignified funeral and burial. The funeral chapel at Mt. Carmel cemetery was packed for the event. The TV cameras and reporters were there. It was a declaration of the inestimable value of every one of God’s children, regardless of their circumstances. It was a demon-stration to his homeless and almost homeless friends that the larger community values each of them because they are children of God, worthy in God’s sight. We at Beacon are blessed to share in extending God’s loving care to them on your behalf.
Client Assistance Fund Opening
New Realities and Possibilities
The Client Assistance Fund now has three full months of service to needy clients. In January, disbursements totaled $111, in February, $617, and March, $648 for a total of $1,376. Twenty one payouts took place during the quarter. Nineteen of these were for rent or utilities assistance. Two were for shelter: hotel rooms for homeless persons during extreme cold weather. We began by setting a $200 limit on any single grant. In March, that limit was reduced to $100, based on experience during January and February. During the quarter the smallest grant was $29.13, the largest $140. Most grants were in the $50 range. As the annual utilities crises abate, demands on the CAF may, hopefully, be less.
Obviously, January was the “spreading the word” month. Once the news got around, requests began to flood in. Demand has been particularly heavy due to Ameren shut off notices that began to arrive at the residences of customers who had not been paying their utility bills during the winter months while Ameren does not shut off utilities of non-paying customers. This is an annual event. In past years, we have referred callers to Catholic Urban Programs, St. Vincent de Paul, or St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Dept. (IGD). When their funds were exhausted, there was no available recourse. It was at these times the downward spiral into homelessness often begins.
This year, callers facing eviction or utilities shut-offs are having a different experience. Dan VandeRiet, Director of Ministries, engages the caller in an exploration of their financial situation. Rarely does he find someone who can’t pay at least part of their bill. Sometimes, an extended family member will put in some money. In some cases, an unnecessary expense such as cable service can be cancelled to free up some income. Finally, Dan will offer the last $50 to make up the difference. Sometimes the plan includes a payment agreement with Ameren or the landlord to make up part of the backlog. By working with these clients, they are helped to take a share of responsibility for making their own way, rather than depending completely on agencies to bail them out.
These experiences reinforce our awareness of how much help so many of our clients need to break the chains of poverty that bind them and move on to greater self-sufficiency. That is where our Life Coaching service comes in. More about that in next month’s Beacon Bulletin.
Client Assistance Fund Needs
Our Client Assistance Fund is proving its value with each financial problem it helps solve. It is also demonstrating how rapidly the fund will be exhausted unless there is a comparable income flow to keep it replenished. For the first quarter of 2015, the outgo as noted above was $1,376. The income was $225. We urgently need churches to become subscribers to the fund. If your congregation has not yet considered making an “over and above” pledge to the fund, please take up the question. One way this can be accomplished is by diverting a portion of your church’s benevolence fund. This makes sense because Beacon is serving some of the people who might otherwise be at your doorstep.
For men in your church: Furniture Delivery and Pickup. One Saturday morning per month, either first or third Saturday. Start 9 a.m., done by noon. Help get furniture items to needy families. If you have access to a truck or a trailer, that would be very helpful – but not essential. Get in touch with Dan at 222-8942 or email at [email protected].
For women or men: Cooking and/or serving lunch to homeless and almost homeless people at our Relational events. Second and fourth Wednesday afternoons from 1:00 – 3:00. This is an opportunity to give direct help to some really needy people. Call Dan at same contact information as above.