So you want to start a motel ministry? You’re at least curious or you wouldn’t have clicked on the link that got you here. You may have seen a newspaper article or something on TV about the homeless in motels. Whatever the reason, welcome!
We hope and pray for you that your experience develops into one as incredible as ours continues to be. Be prepared to admit you know nothing, and don’t know what to expect and you’ll do just fine.
To put you at ease if you’re feeling confused or conflicted about anything you’ve learned about the situation in the motels and how you can possibly fit in or help, you need to know that you don’t need any special talents.
You don’t need to be a “saint” or an “angel”. If you did, no one would do anything, because none of us are. Each of us has a different job to do. You may even ultimately decide that a motel ministry is not for you and that you’re called to do something different. The important thing is to do that thing you’re called to, or you will never be happy.
Don’t worry about having a ministry spring up full blown and organized from day one. It just doesn’t work that way. Start easy and get your bearings. It’s better to take some sandwiches out consistently than to bring in a one-time extravaganza where the people never see you again.
The purpose of ministry is to touch people and make relationships. You can’t do then when all you do is “Hit & Run”. It’s more important to remember the people you meet so you can call them by name next time, than it is to shower them with clothing, pamphlets, loud music and press cameras flashing in their faces.
Everyone isn’t called to be CEO, President or Queen. Someone has to dig the trenches and mop the floors because in the end, that’s just as important in any ministry. While people were raging about “What was the government doing about this mess?” Our founder Linda reminded us that the government is made up of people—“We the people”. While the problem was debated and meetings with tri-colored flow charts were being conducted, children were going to bed hungry and families were being thrown out onto the street. It was time to get to work, and, she did. It really is as simple as that.
On any given night, in any city in the United States, there are homeless people. They can be found on the streets, under bridges, in parks, shelters or motels. Project Dignity began by serving the homeless on the streets in 1991. In 1996 we changed our focus to the homeless in motels because we felt they were the most underserved of all homeless populations. (It’s kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it? All homeless people are underserved, or they wouldn’t be homeless!)
Because they weren’t on the streets, the public was not aware they were homeless. We lived only blocks away from some of these motels and didn’t know it. It was a rude awakening to find out that children, families and the elderly were living in appalling conditions, not only from a physical standpoint, but also from a criminal standpoint.
Don’t ever let anyone criticize you for helping the homeless in motels, instead of the homeless on the streets. Don’t be guilted by someone telling you have to serve the “worst first”. (The definition of “worst” is very fluid when dealing with the homeless.)
Once you determine you want to become involved, you’ll get all kinds of advice on who you should be helping and what you should be doing. If you listen, you’ll find yourself being persuaded to build houses, attend endless meetings, set up a shelter or become a lobbyist/advocate.
Before the madness engulfs you, stop! All these things have merit, for the person who is supposed to do them. You don’t have to do anything other than what the burden on your heart is directing you to do. If you feel you need to serve the homeless on the streets, go and do it, do it well and God bless you. However, if your heart is directing you to the homeless in motels, then dig in and get going.