[Faith & Leadership] Marcy Dyment arrived for Christmas Day breakfast at All Saints Episcopal Church on a peaceful, convivial kind of morning in Pasadena, California.
With her dog, Bullet, in tow, the 57-year-old former elementary school teacher chatted with parish leadership and about a dozen unhoused people from the church’s Safe Haven Bridge to Housing program.
She and the other people gathered there were treated to packaged McDonald’s meals, lined up on socially distanced tables in accordance with coronavirus protocols.
It was a reunion of sorts for Dyment, who had moved into permanent housing in December after three years of living on the streets. Dyment said she is grateful for the effort the church is making at a difficult and complicated time in a situation that is often messy and imperfect.
“They’re just extremely tolerant, wonderful people,” she said.
Dyment is just one of the now-housed folks who have been helped by All Saints’ Safe Haven Bridge to Housing, a ministry of the church launched in October 2020.
Although a small number of unhoused people have lived on the All Saints campus for years, the church was overwhelmed with people needing shelter during the early days of the pandemic, when local facilities cut capacity and nearby City Hall closed.
Through trial and error, planning and reaching out to community partners, All Saints has worked to create a manageable system in which 12 people without shelter can stay on church grounds and receive support services.
Church leaders hope to expand this model to other congregations to create a network of support for the unhoused without overly taxing any one church.
It’s particularly important to them that the model be workable for smaller and less wealthy congregations than the 3,000-member All Saints, said the Rev. Mike Kinman, the church’s rector.
The process has not been easy, and All Saints leadership has had to pivot. But they are clear that it’s been worth it — not just because of what the church can now offer people who lack housing but also because of the community it has nurtured.