(Photo: Bowery Mission)
The Bowery Mission is giving New Yorkers the chance to answer the question "How can I help the homeless?" during one of the coldest months of the year.
The goal of its new four-week initiative, "Don't Walk By," is to offer every homeless person on the streets of Manhattan the opportunity to change their lives.
Many organizations try to help the poor with a handout, but Bowery, a faith-based organization, gives those on the street the chance to engage in long-term solutions to their problems.
James Winans, director of Development for The Bowery Mission, told The Christian Post that the project is based on the parable of the Good Samaritan. He said the Good Samaritan used all of his resources to assist the man he encountered on the road. He brought him to an inn "where other people are and other resources [were] on hand."
This is the idea behind Bowery's method. It will send out teams of volunteers after a brief training session, to walk every block of Upper Manhattan. Each team will carry a map of their assigned area, as well as blankets and essential hygiene and winter items.
Volunteers are instructed on how to engage each homeless person they encounter, and will invite that person back to Bethel Gospel Assembly Church for a meal.
At the church, other volunteers will offer additional services, such as clothing and professional medical care. Additionally, representatives of various residential programs will invite guests to the opportunity of safe shelter for the night. If someone is ready to leave the streets he or she can get into a recovery program that night as well.
Those seeking help could enter Bowery's residential program, or another partner organization's residential or addiction program. Bowery partners with eight other faith-based organizations including American Bible Society, Betel America, Hope For New York, New York City Relief, New York City Rescue Mission, Street Life Ministries, and Streetlight Mission.
Brian Johansson, vice president of The Bowery Mission and one of the founding leaders of "Don't Walk By," said in a released statement, "These volunteers and organizations are driven by a common goal: To make sure that no one suffers on the streets of New York City in the winter, and to see that each person gets a chance for a new life."
Winans told CP that "the whole drive of the program is to offer an alternative to being on the street, and at The Bowery Mission that involves a wholesale life transformation." He said what they provide is not a handout, but rather a way for someone to truly change their life.
Part of that transformation can be seen through their Discipleship institute. Homeless men who enroll in this program live in a dorm together and work on breaking destructive habits. They do this through group counseling sessions, addiction recovery, a Career Center, Bible studies, and participation in the running of Bowery's facilities and programs.
The "Don't Walk By" initiative will take place each of the four Saturdays in February. Winans said that the goal is not just for volunteers to reach the homeless, but also that they walk away from the outreach seeing the homeless in a new light." He said he hopes that more churches will adopt this model and become a place of welcome for those on the street so there can be an impact year round.
Since January 2009, the "Don't Walk By" campaign has mobilized more than 4,200 volunteers who have engaged more than 3,200 homeless men, women and children on the streets of Manhattan. Nearly 1,300 homeless individuals have returned to a church for a meal and other services, and more than 300 have left the streets that very night.