In October 2017, Feaker notified local media of their need for an additional $996,000. It was to bring the full scope of their anti-human trafficking action plan to bear, not in response to financial free-fall, Feaker clarified.
“We had expanded to the point where we’re saying (to ourselves) to sustain this, we need to have more public awareness,” Feaker shared. “This is public information only. This is what we’re doing. We felt like that was important at the time.”
Another concern is a growing contingent of homeless people setting up camp just outside the shelter’s walls, to the east of the Kansas Ave bridge. Feaker described a multi-organization operation called Street Reach that “goes and meets them where they are,” in recognition of their need, and perhaps preference, to remain unsheltered. This has drawn speculation that TRM is turning people away from their shelter, or that those who stay there are required to engage in TRM’s ministry services.
“We’ll allow them to come in. Most of them don’t want to come in. It’s too restrictive to them,” Feaker began. “What we’ve found is that they have their own systems of security and policies and rules. The closer to The Rescue Mission, we have found out, the more order there is in the homeless camp.”
He advised that their nightly chapel service is voluntary, as well as their prayer groups, worship times, and biblical studies. He clarified that none of their ministries tie into the “volunteer rewards credits” program; and that people of many faiths stay at the shelter, even having open conversations about their spirituality with one another.
“Our role is not to make people become Christians or convert them…Our role is what we believe simply that Jesus said – to love God with all your strength, heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. What does that mean? Love them.”
Feaker said that there’s a challenge in overcoming assumptions of whom TRM provides access to. “People will say, ‘you only let Christians in’ or ‘[clients] have to become a Christian to stay here.’ We don’t [make people] do any of these things. We offer. ‘Oh, you don’t let LGBTQ stay here.’ We’ve got a lot of LGBTQ here…Now, we have common rules that apply to everybody.”
He gave an example of their single-bed policy, meaning that no couples share a bed regardless of sexual orientation. He also mentioned a recent visit from a transgender woman who declined to stay at the shelter because she didn’t want to dress like a man in the men’s dormitory. “We got some guys that just came out of the joint. They could hurt you,” he explained.
The latter could be interpreted as yet another deference to the patriarchy, its own trauma among those pushed furthest out to society’s fringes. At the very least, it reveals the inequity of personhood at even the lowest socioeconomic stratum.
Feaker acknowledged that there are many ways to look at these issues, and is willing to mine the possibilities should TRM, its staff and its services reach a worst-case scenario in their funding model. “If the system that we have had for decades doesn’t work anymore, there’s no principle or a bylaw that says we can’t take public monies. Rather than say ‘well, by principle, we’re not gonna take any government funding, too bad, go in the streets…” he stated exasperatedly. He continued that he would rather see TRM remain open under government funding than end completely. “It’s not about anything more than why our mission is here, and that’s to be here for the people that need us.”
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