Bellarmine Prep helps relieve crowded men’s shelter
By Matt Nagle
Among those being heavily impacted by the coronavirus are people experiencing homelessness. Lacking access to personal care, modern conveniences to stay on top of the news and a home to hunker down in, those on the streets have some of the fewest resources yet are most at risk.
At the Tacoma Rescue Mission, staff is working harder than ever to take care of the most defenseless among us. The Mission’s Search & Rescue Team, the only outreach team still operating in Pierce County at this time, is continuing to reach people on the street with vital supplies and relational connection. Guests are being screened for symptoms, cleaning the facility takes place hourly and signs directing guests where to go helps to minimize face-to-face interactions.
Meals at the Mission are up 25 percent and are still being served but through individual take-out rather than the usual open dining at tables.
“Normally we serve about 850 meals a day, and this past couple of weeks we’ve been serving close to 1,100 and that’s going to go up,” saidExecutive Director Duke Paulson.
These are just some of the ways that the Mission is responding to this historic pandemic.
“We have not withdrawn anything. We are still staying open and offering all of our services,” Paulson said. “Our clients have nowhere else to go, especially with other services around the city being shut down. We are working with the Pierce County Health Department to limit the spread of this virus and care well for our guests, volunteers, staff and everyone in our community.”
Paulson said that he feels good right now about where the Mission is at in helping people, and praised the staff for their selflessness.
“I feel the challenge of it being hard on our staff. They’re choosing to lean in and keep helping people when it would be safer and more comfortable to stay home right now. That’s hard and draining on people, but our staff has really stepped up.”
Most recently, the Mission partnered with Bellarmine Preparatory School to help with the Mission’s crowded men’s shelter. Since March 24, Mission volunteers have been transporting 50 men identified as at-risk due to age and underlying health conditions to Bellarmine’s Names Family gym for overnight stays.
While the Mission’s men’s shelter was designed to hold approximately 60 men, over the past two decades the Mission has incorporated all available space to serve as many as 200 men a night.
“I have been deeply concerned for our guests with the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.” Paulson said. “We are grateful to have Bellarmine step forward to help care for community members in need during this uncertain time. This is an immense blessing.”
At Bellarmine, the Mission is providing all the necessary supplies and two staff members to oversee things and sanitize the gym and bathrooms each morning. Bellarmine will continue to offer the space while the school is closed and social distancing is necessary.
“The Bellarmine community is grateful to be able to offer this form of practical support to those who are most vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Bellarmine President Rob Modarelli. “As a Catholic, Jesuit institution, we are called to service, especially for the poor and marginalized. This is a simple way we can live out Jesus’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Transportation is being made possible through the generosity of Life Center Church and First Presbyterian Tacoma. Each church is providing a bus to carry shelter guests between the Mission and Bellarmine.
“We believe ministry is essential for our community in this time,” said Pastor Tyler Sollie of Life Center. “To move through this, we all need to be willing to do what we can, with what we have. We are thankful to be able to serve in this way.”
For anyone looking to help the Mission out, volunteers are definitely needed, but only people who are younger than 65 and with no underlying health conditions. Normally about 15-20 volunteers a day come to help but that number has dwindled to one or two a day. Help is needed for meal service, food prep and warehouse, and Mission staff will make sure that no one is put at risk through close contact.
The need for donations remains high as well, specifically for food delivery supplies for take away meals (to-go boxes, plastic bags, plastic utensils, napkins), cleaning supplies, masks, and personal protection equipment. Monetary donations are most welcome at this time as well to go toward the unexpected increase in expenses.
Paulson said that the Mission does not want to take anything away that is needed at hospitals, but the first donation of face masks just arrived this week for staff and for any guests who come in coughing or sick.
“We are so grateful for the donations, volunteers and prayers during this time of rapid change and increased need,” Paulson said. “It is crucial that we all stand together and come alongside our most vulnerable neighbors.”
Find out how you can help at www.trm.org/covid19update.