ABQ FaithWorks Mission Statement:
"All people are safely housed and integrated into healthy communities." (of their choice)
Editor’s Note: As ABQ FaithWorks strengthens its Help at the Door capacity at member churches, here’s one congregation’s experience building community with its unhoused neighbors.
By Sara Keeney, Albuquerque Friends Meeting (Quaker)
“I am an independent woman who lives in a tent, not by choice, but due to having lost my apartment. I cannot walk and am in a wheelchair. I am thankful for the individuals from the Quaker Meeting House who smile and are warm, fighting for individuals like myself that are homeless, giving without expecting something in return. I am blessed by the individuals who came with their precious, purest, golden hearts, showing perfect kindness to get me out of the winter storm, and then have kept helping me to get stable housing and health care. I feel like I have been touched by angels. You are a blessing.”
Some of us call it a Step Ministry since our Meeting House is on a well-used path for unhoused neighbors through downtown, and many stop there daily. Our Albuquerque Friends Meeting (Quaker) has provided an electric outlet and water spigot as an on-going ministry over the years, and with recent increased need since 2020, it has grown in scope and energy.
Most daytimes when you walk up to our door, there may be someone on the entry porch already, using the outlet for charging a phone. Depending on your purpose your first words may be--"Hey, how's it going? How soon can I have a turn charging?" or "Hey, how's it going? My name is ___, Are you doing OK?"
A friendly, person-to-person greeting often leads to deeper conversation, to providing snacks or a needed blanket or jacket. Some of the regular unhoused neighbors have gotten to know our team members well and they tell us they help out by sweeping the steps, collecting trash, or by reminding each other that we can't have overnight camping on the property.
A small but energetic team coordinates what we can and can't offer and arranges at least one in person visit to the meeting house daily at a regular time. In listening to the requests people made on the doorstep, we decided this winter to establish a Go Fund Me account to raise funds to house a few vulnerable people in hotels during the worst cold and wet weather. Thanks to generous community support we were able to do that for two individuals for a cumulative total of 19 winter nights --but we also found that many asked for help that would keep them going longer. They said tents and sleeping bags were their most important needs. With many in-kind donations and Go-Fund-Me gifts we were able to provide at least 50 tents, 40 sleeping bags and countless jackets, blankets, gloves, socks and shoes for people who came to the door. We also shared resources regularly with grass roots community groups who do street outreach all year long.
The people we meet on our doorstep show great strength, creativity and resilience, along with heart-breaking personal challenges, as they survive on the street. Trust-building is a slow and intentional process for all. We have been able to accompany several on the barrier-laden process of accessing services and have learned how defeating that can feel. How can one print a form from phone internet access? How can one receive a call back from an agency when a personal phone can be stolen or run out of charge at any time? We are learning and are continually amazed at the ingenuity and persistence these neighbors show. We are learning how we can best provide person-to-person support, recognizing that of God within each of us.