Unfortunately, homelessness doesn’t take a holiday.
People are without a home on Christmas just as they are on the other 364 days of the year. Every year, several Beacon congregations choose to offer shelter to guests on and around the Christmas holiday. This year the hosts include Christ Presbyterian in Edina, Church of St. Michael in Prior Lake, Freshwater Church in Waconia, and Temple Israel in Minneapolis.
The holidays are a time of year when many people want to find ways to help their neighbors. According to Charlie Simon of Freshwater Church, “People are very willing to help. They want to do something special to give back. We see families serving together. We even had someone sign up that just heard about it on Facebook.” Leslie Boie, the mission adminstrator at Christ Presbyterian, adds that “Our members have a heart for children and families and dignified housing for all, so it has become a favorite time of year to welcome our guests as they wait to transition into their own homes.”
For Freshwater and Christ Presbyterian, providing shelter at Christmastime is also a practical choice: it is the only time of year when there isn’t any congregational programming. “We have a very busy church facility and activities are usually on a break over that time period,” said Simon. Boie, agrees. “We can only host during periods when our programming is on hiatus. Otherwise every inch of our building is in use,” she said. Boie says that Christ Presbyterian has hosted over Christmas since at least 2003 while Freshwater is now in its third year of hosting at Christmas.
What are the plans for the actual day of Christmas? A number of families spend the time with extended family. For those that are there all or part of the day, Christ Presbyterian has several things planned. Families will be able to decorate a Christmas tree and also make ornaments for the tree. Boie added that a photographer will be on hand to take family photos. “Always a highlight,” she said.
Simon says that Freshwater tries to be sensitive to the each family’s needs. He added that someone has volunteered to buy gifts for the children and they have treated guests to the movies at the theater across the street. All in all, it is learning to go with the flow. “We have learned flexibility is key,” Simon said.