It’s a return home, even if it’s temporary.
A year ago, SPiN Cafe lost its lease and sought simple warmth, out of the weather, for our vulnerable and struggling citizens to have a meal. Two congregations stepped up. Church on the Rock and St. Stephen’s Episcopal, neighbors on Regatta Avenue, provided the welcoming shelter we needed. That is, until COVID-19 put us back on the street in March.
But a year can make a big difference when dedicated people decide to solve a problem.
Under clear COVID-19 guidance from Washington State and the Episcopal diocese, St. Stephen’s and SPiN Cafe have agreed to open a day center five days a week.
SPiN Executive Director Michele Chapman is excited about the news. “There’s enough room in here,” she said on a recent afternoon in a vast empty room at the church, “that we can welcome over thirty people if we need to, and still maintain social distancing. Our guests, to whom we’ve served lunches outdoors for nearly a year, are excited too. We’ll provide coffee and a warm place out of the cold, for our guests who have no place else to go. And we’re coordinating with The Haven to have our guests go straight there in the evening if they have no place to sleep.”
Island County Human Services officials are glad to see the change. Service providers – mental health, drug treatment, housing assistance – will visit SPiN guests on site. “It will be a big help for them in connecting with their clients,” says Michele. “They won’t have to go searching, or wait for a phone call.”
Michele looks forward to adding evening meals to the program at St. Stephen’s. It’s been almost a year since SPiN’s last dinner service. Sit-down meals, with table service, no charge, no questions asked, have been a vital part of SPiN’s commitment to serving guests with dignity, regardless of their ability to pay. And those evening meals will return soon. Meanwhile, SPiN will continue with its daily sack lunch service, at both the church and Ramaley Park.
“I am ecstatic about the reopening,” says SPiN’s Tangiler London, who will staff afternoons at the day center. “And I’m very grateful to St. Stephen’s for welcoming our organization and community. I’m looking forward to opening the doors for our guests and giving them a warm place to be.”
The congregation at St. Stephen’s is fully behind the effort. “St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church is extremely happy to be able to welcome SPiN Cafe back into our building,” says Susan Ho, Senior Warden. “SPiN not only provides food and a warm space for its guests, it provides hope, dignity, and love. There are as many reasons for homelessness as there are homeless people, and the volunteers with SPiN Cafe greet everyone as a friend. We are glad to partner with them as we all work to help each other.”
It’s a stopgap, of course. SPiN needs its own place. Michele Chapman gets animated when she talks about the opportunities. “Our guests are human beings. They are part of our community. They need a permanent place to go.”
But for now, the good people of St. Stephen’s are living the words of their greeting: All Are Welcome.