Homeless shelter needs support

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It was a risky thing, last year, to oppose the Rev. Larry Rice's bid for the old federal building to establish a very large homeless shelter in Cape Girardeau.

It was risky because Cape Girardeau has had a track record of denying that there are homeless in our midst. And when the homeless keep showing up at the back doors of our churches, we have assuaged our consciences by giving them a night in a motel and inviting them to move along.

It was risky because those of us who knew better have been content to refer the whole issue to a committee, which has been studying the issue for most of this third millennium.

Now, thanks to Chaplain Terry Wildman's on-the-street, first-person testimony, we know that we must act now. We understand that the problem is growing daily.

Now, thanks to Rice's persistent threat, Cape Girardeau's leaders have finally come together to facilitate constructive change.

Now Chaplain Wildman and a dozen other dedicated people have formed a not-for-profit corporation: The Shelter of Hope.

Now the business community is stepping up to the plate, bankers are lending a hand and contractors are offering their expertise.

Now we have a superbly located building with enough room for two small dorms, a hospitality room, and a resale/free-sale store.

Now Chaplain Wildman, who works for zero salary, has brought on board the Rev. David McNeeley, who, if it is possible, also freely gives his full-time ministry to his work. Now a half-dozen little congregations outside the city limits and unknown to Cape Girardeau's movers and shakers have made a monthly financial commitment.

But, as of this printing, only four (of how many dozens?) Cape Girardeau congregations have stepped up to commit money. We are bowled over by the generosity of many individuals. What we need now is $30,000 of building materials to build the dorms and upgrade the plumbing and electrical. We urgently need 20 or 30 Cape Girardeau congregations to make a pledge. We need churches to write checks. We need congregations that can't write checks to hold fundraisers for Shelter of Hope.

My church, Christ Episcopal Church, is opening it's red doors for a fundraiser at 4 p.m. April 18 for the shelter. Maybe your church can have a bake sale or a garage sale. Maybe your fraternity, sorority or service club can adopt the Shelter of Hope.

It is now, or it may be never. This spring we need to make good news for the poor and get the Shelter of Hope open, up and operating. This Easter we need to make real the resurrection for Jesus' least and last.

If you want a pledge form or would like to see our needs list, I will e-mail you one. Write me at rector@clas.net. I know Cape Girardeau can do this. I believe God is leaning heavily into this work.

Cape Girardeau, it is your move. Let's show that we not only talk the talk, but we are willing to walk the walk -- all the way to Easter.

The Rev. Bob Towner is the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Cape Girardeau. He wrote this for the board of directors of Shelter of Hope. Towner may be contacted by mail at the church, 38 N. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, MO 63701; by e-mail at rector@clas.net; or by phone at 573-335-2997 or 573-450-3263.

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