An important note from our founder…
It has been 21 days since we have become a light to the Migrant community that is finding themselves at our doorstep. The passages of scripture found in Matthew 25:34-40, Hebrews 13:2, and of course Luke 10:25-37 where we are told to love our neighbors, are all in play for us at the Family Empowerment Centers in dynamic fashion. We are on the frontline of people from South and Central America entering our city of Chicago, literally with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a backpack.
We have always been grassroots, meet people where they are at with the love of Christ organization and so we have decidedly made our lane in this crisis the first 7-10 days they are in Chicago. Let me explain what I know of the process thus far. Men, woman and children get to the border and declare themselves as seeking asylum. They get assigned a number and then at some point they are moved around our nation to sanctuary cities such as Chicago. I have no idea what the time period is between their entering the country and when they arrive in Chicago, but the first stop is at the police station where they get dropped off.
Once at the police station they sit and wait. Some of them have not showered for days or even weeks. They lack clean underwear, sometimes kids have no shoes, children as young as 3 months old sleep on the concrete floor of the police station, they often do not have personal hygiene products, no blankets or sleeping bags, and sometimes they are sick. I have heard of families and children having Covid, Pneumonia, Chicken Pox, and even TB in the past 20 days. The police although permissive to the idea of these Migrants coming to the station, they have jobs to do and often see it as a burden rather than an opportunity. Our local alderwoman and a robust group of community members who have coordinated a “What’s App” group scurry around to try to ease the burden on the precinct and provide care to the Migrants.
Some of the complexities arise from the systemic process of getting more permanent housing for these people. Once at the police station if the migrant leaves and the secondary agency (Salvation army as an example) arrives to pick you up and you are not there they move you to the bottom of the list. This creates fear for them to leave the police station, so if someone wants to house a migrant family until they get moved to a secondary shelter they cannot. The police station has no showers, no chairs, no tables to eat at etc…. Recently our local police station has been moving them outside every day and only allowing them to be inside the lobby to sleep on the cold floor.
The first 7-10 days in Chicago are their most vulnerable days as the system has not caught up to this entry point. When it does, they move to a temporary shelter that has a bit (and I use that very loosely) more coordinated effort to provide regular food (although as we are finding out sometimes it is not enough), sheltered sleeping, and sometimes greater ability to shower. This secondary temporary shelter becomes home for 2 to 4 weeks, sometimes longer, before they get moved to more permanent shelters.
These permanent shelters, such as the Inn (Hotel) downtown that you might have heard about on the news are very much shelters. It gives people a little more permanency but not any quality of life as one would hope for. Sometimes 10 or more people in a hotel room, no TV’s, one bathroom. No food permitted in rooms and in some cases overcrowded. There is drug use and safety concerns at these larger shelters. Is it better than the police station floor? Of course. Is it a permanent solution not even close. It does buy the system some time for these families to get processed and eventually get some of them their working papers and other resources, but it is a crisis that does not have any end in sight. As a matter of fact, we are finding some of them would rather remain on the street than be in an unsafe shelter.
As a matter of fact, we are finding some of them would rather remain on the street than be in an unsafe shelter.
Back to our part. We are the Paramedic. We get to be the first interaction these families have with Chicago. We get to represent the Church with these most vulnerable people. We get to shine as we are told in Matthew 5:16 with the result being that they would glorify God. We have had numerous opportunities to integrate the social care of these families with the Gospel message of hope in Christ. As a matter of fact, even this past Sunday morning William who has been serving these families daily, told me that 3 of them are close to wanting to get baptized (William is a person here on Asylum from Columbia who is a long-time believer and part of our faith community).
So, pray! Pray fervently that we would steward this moment well. Pray that as we care for human needs the spiritual needs of these men, women, and children they will also be met by Christ. Pray that we would be able to experience God’s supernatural provision in this area of new ministry, but also in old areas of ministry which have not ceased as we care for these Migrant families. It was the pantry that brought them in contact with us on the first day. Last week and now this week we are doing impromptu ESL classes for the migrants and so remember that at FEC there is much beauty in the overlapping of programs.
So, the nuts and bolts of our commitment is that we are open from 8am until 1 pm every day for them to come to the Center. The arrive to a hot breakfast (which we cook), we have towels waiting for them to shower, they check in with what their needs are and when possible, we provide them with toiletries, underwear, pants, shirts, shoes, sometimes strollers, blankets, and other needed items. When we do not have them here, we get the word out and see if we can get them in collaboration with others. They then can linger until lunch when various community members drop lunch off for them (and we supplement when not enough). They then make their way back to the police station for the remainder of the day and evening. Just as a note, they leave 2 or 3 people behind at the police station to watch their stuff and let us know if the secondary agencies show up. When that happens, everyone scurries back to the police station. We have also found ourselves playing impromptu soccer games in the park in the early evenings with them, something that helps them think of brighter things.
Please continue to serve with us as we serve our King and these men, woman, and children. We need resources to properly staff this effort and alleviate the time constraints of our current staff (an immediate need of $3500 will help us hire a part-time person to help with the administration of this for the next 6 to 8 weeks).
I also need your help to garner support for our Annual Golf Event and Over the Edge Event. These two events help us meet and greet new donors, continue our relationship with current donors, and ultimately help us continue and expand our programing. We need sponsors who would help underwrite these events so that we can reach more people, making them aware of what we do, and ultimately raise the necessary funds to keep responding to the leading of God in our efforts here at the Center.
Our Golf event has sponsorship levels of $500, $1000, $1500, $1750, and $2500. The total cost for our golf outing is approximately $17,500. Our Over the Edge event has sponsorship levels of $500, $1600, $2500, $5000, $8000, and $15,000 for our marquee level of sponsorship. Currently 97.5 Boost FM is 1 of our Marquee sponsors through a gift in kind agreement. The cost to operate Over the Edge costs us nearly $40,000. Although both events cost a significant amount of money to operate, they both have been effective in helping us continue our mission.
I am going to attach information for both events and I am including some links for you to participate with us. I am also providing a link for a Celebrating 20 Year Video that we produced that looks back on the 20 years of operations and celebrates the values and vision we will continue to carry forward for many years to come.
Thank you for your interest in what we do, your partnership and support. We could not do what we do without you.