The San Diego Interfaith Shelter Network (ISN) is a powerful and unique way for you and your congregation to step up and provide faith based care to the homeless. Interfaith Shelter Network is a consortium of approximately 120 churches, synagogues and other faith based organizations that come together to feed, clothe and house the homeless. About half of the churches are host congregations and the other half are support congregations.
Interfaith Shelter Network began in 1986 and in the past 28 years has sheltered over 8,000 individuals and families. ISN and the local churches serve the situational homeless, not the chronic homeless. That is, people who sincerely want to be self-sufficient and need just a little time to become employed and be able to save some money.
San Diego is divided into seven regions or branches. During the shelter season, there are seven different shelters operating at the same time. Through neighborhood congregations, people are sheltered where there are no shelters and receive the understanding and support of congregations when previously all they knew was fear and uncertainty.
Congregations benefit by getting to know homeless individuals personally and the mutual sharing of stories is beneficial to both. Many people question the idea of hosting a shelter at their local church. Questions of security and adequate facilities are just a few.
Guests are only sent to congregations after being screened by an area social service agency to assure there will be no active drug, alcohol or mental health problems.
Guests sent to the Network’s congregations must be willing to work closely with the referring social service agency to resolve the problems leading to their homelessness. Guests are also limited to a maximum of 12 per church for a period of two weeks.
Additionally the guests must be off the church property during the day giving them time to seek employment and meet with their case manager or any other activity that will help them get back to a productive life.
The mission statement of ISN sums up the goals of serving the homeless members of our community: “to coordinate the efforts of participating congregations, social service agencies, and governmental programs in order to provide shelter and other resources to homeless individuals and families and enable those we serve to move toward self-sufficiency while respecting their dignity as children of God.”
ISN is actively seeking more congregations to host and support shelters throughout the county. The task of hosting a shelter is surprisingly easy. The other churches in your area or branch are more than willing to help show you what needs to be done. More information concerning hosting or supporting a shelter can be obtained by visiting ISN’s website, interfaithshelter.org or by calling Tanya Roome, rotational shelter coordinator: 619-702-5399.
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