The world has been turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic – many organizations are having to change their entire programs while maintaining their purpose: trying to help those in need. One example is The Bowery Mission in New York City.
The Bowery Mission has been around for 140 years, staying open during the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and Hurricane Sandy. They knew what the challenges could look like when COVID-19 became prevalent.
The Bowery Mission has been working with their neighbors, churches and partners to provide compassionate care and essential resources for the homeless community in NYC. They have eight locations spanning from New Jersey to NYC to the Poconos. They were the first rescue mission in the country. The Bowery Mission is “called to minister in the New York metro area to men, women, and children caught in the cycles of poverty, hopelessness and dependencies of many kinds, and to see their lives transformed to hope, joy, lasting productivity and eternal life through the power of Jesus Christ.”
They offer many programs to help the community. There are long term and short term programs offered, ranging from three to 18 months. There are opportunities everywhere for individuals to get in touch with a team to create an individualized action plan – “We believe that each plan needs to be contextualized – there could be people struggling with PTSD, domestic violence, substance abuse, any trauma. With our shower program or meal program, there are opportunities for a person to touch base with our team whether that’s an ambassador, a social worker, or another staff member to begin that journey with us,” Karl Chan, Associate Director of Partnerships at The Bowery Mission, states.
“We want people to feel safe, trusted, and cared for. We offer meal programs, shower programs, shelters, day centers. Day centers are safe spaces where everybody and anybody is welcome. People can just be – they can rest and be part of a community. We try to break down the barriers,” Karl expresses. “We serve a population that is experiencing trauma and it is imperative for them to know the love of Christ through us. Our main goal is for everyone to obtain independence and make progress.”
The Bowery Mission also offers child programs – “We have had kid programs for 124 years now. We offer summer camp out in the Poconos and after school enrichment programs in the city. We want to break the cycle of poverty by encouraging kids to dream beyond their current circumstances. We offer mentoring, tutoring, socio-emotional learning and leadership development opportunities which also helps these kids want to stay in school,” Karl shares.
Since COVID-19 has hit the United States, there have been many challenges that many organizations face. Karl explains, “Our biggest challenge right now is the weekly increase of costs. Since COVID-19, our meal lines have grown, the food we would have received from local restaurants has gone down so our food purchasing has gone up, and we have switched to a take away or to go model. New faces who had a job a couple weeks ago are showing up in our meal lines. We usually have 17,000 volunteers a year – we have had to repurpose our programming since the numbers have dropped. We need to screen the volunteers for any illness. We have started to move to more of an online presence and additional solutions. We need necessary PPE and cleaning supplies. But through all of this we receive outpouring encouragement from our partners, donors, and churches – which we are so thankful for. We couldn’t do it without the support system.”
Church World Service sent The Bowery Mission 500 CWS Blankets and 1,020 CWS Hygiene Kits in response to COVID-19. Karl shares that, “the hygiene kits and blankets have been so helpful here. The hygiene kits help with the shower program and every person who receives a meal is offered a hygiene kit. The blankets are very helpful in rotating out blankets at the shelter to ensure that everything is clean and sanitized. Old sheets and blankets are also being replaced with the new blankets.”
Every story has a meaning and a purpose. Karl shares, “I do what I do because I have experienced such a tangible sense of the love of Christ. I want everyone to feel and know that love. I am blessed beyond imagination and am so grateful, and there is a huge biblical mandate on us to steward what we have been entrusted with. So many are experiencing homelessness and trauma – we must recognize that we must do something to help them. God commands us to take care of others. If you recall the parable of the talents, many of us often think that we only have one talent to give but I think we each have closer to five to share.”
“I think what other people should know about us is that we will always be open. We stayed open through the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and Hurricane Sandy. We will always be there for people. We can’t do it without the donors and organizations who support us. We will continue to be a place of refuge and hope so others may come to know about the love of Christ as we help to meet their immediate needs.”
“Church World Service is only able to provide CWS Hygiene Kits and CWS Blankets because of the dedicated congregations and donors that support this mission,” said Matthew Stevens, Director of Congregational Giving at Church World Service. “Every person who buys a blanket or assembles a hygiene kit is helping someone. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these donations can be life-saving. Thank you for serving others.”