By building trust with a “radically welcoming” environment, the Refresh program has again expanded as it marks its second anniversary.
The drop-in program offers a meal, a hot shower, and case management services to those experiencing homelessness. Now, it has moved from two to three days a week.
Refresh is an “extremely low-barrier service point that feels radically welcoming,” says Scott Rumpsa, Executive Director of Community Action House, one of two Refresh partner organizations.
“Often folks might not have a bigger community of support, and this is the first step to building that community of support,” Rumpsa says.
Refresh, which is now open three days a week, could be the one stable place they can rely on no matter what. After getting to know guests and building trust with them, guests and CAH staff work together to solve challenges beyond a simple meal and hot shower.
“(Refresh) exemplifies how important our community partnerships are in being a welcoming community,” he says.
The Refresh program is a collaboration between Community Action House and First United Methodist Church, and the pair have worked together to build it up. CAH provides staff and leadership to work with guests to address barriers to housing, setting goals, and other resources, Rumpsa says, but without the facility and volunteers of FUMC, Refresh would never have opened.
For those experiencing homelessness, keeping clean can be a constant challenge, says Daniel Unekis, Outreach Program Manager with Community Action House. Damaged self-esteem and difficulty in job interviews and social situations are often byproducts, he says.
More than a hot shower
The outreach team from CAH also helps people who have lost their Social Security cards, state IDs, and birth certificates, and helps them navigate Medicaid, unemployment, food stamps, other state and federal aid, and local resources.
“Perhaps most importantly, Refresh offers people a place where, regardless of how they've been treated elsewhere, they can expect grace-filled, dignity-instilling services and relationships,” Unekis said in an interview last year.
The program began in February 2019. That year, 1,834 people signed in for a shower, a meal, to pick up their mail, or other assistance. Refresh went from once-a-week service to twice-a-week in September 2019. In the first half of 2020, it had already recorded 1,214 sign-ins.
At the beginning of 2021, Refresh went from being open two mornings a week (Tuesdays and Fridays 7:30-11:30 a.m.) to adding hours on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8. The program is looking to recruit more volunteers, so it can offer its services even more days each week. Visit volunteer.communityactionhouse.org
to fill out a volunteer inquiry form.
“Like any partnership, it’s best when it’s mutually beneficial,” says Megan Maas, Community Engagement Manager at CAH.
The experience is a positive one for volunteers, the church has seen people from the shower program become regular attendees on Sunday mornings.
And, she says, “Community is good for people.”