Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Overwhelming Love for Our Community, by Jon Donohue

Jesus has a heart for the poor among us. In fact, He equates our care for the poor as our care for Him. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells his listeners “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Jesus’ words make it clear that, as a church, our care for people in need is a critical calling. Because of this, it’s a blessing that we can partner with ministries in our community that are meeting such needs.

Love Overwhelming is a non-profit ministry in our community that is engaging in meeting the needs of the most forgotten among us: the homeless. Love Overwhelming was birthed three years ago out of the vision of its current director, Chuck Hendrickson.  At the time, Chuck was working with a local mental health agency that focused on helping homeless people get housing. But through his work, he noticed that there were many people who were “falling through the cracks” of the system. Some were, for one reason or another, unable to walk through the steps required to gain housing, while others were considered too “high risk.” Chuck recognized the needs of those who were still literally out in the cold, and he, along with the help of other ministry partners, developed a mission to help these outsiders. The mission of Love Overwhelming remains the same today: “To extend hope by identifying needs and creatively serving our community.”

One critical way Love Overwhelming advances this mission is through evidence-based best practices like the “housing first” model. Utilizing a network of landlords who serve alongside Love Overwhelming, The strategy of the housing first model is to take individuals who are homeless, and give them housing first. In other words, while other systems require that people first become clean, or get some level of employment, or get better credit, or pay off debts, or get the right kinds of care or state assistance before they receive housing, etc., this strategy provides people with housing first (for one full year) so that they then have their number one concern taken care of in order to then work on the other needs and requirements from a place of security rather than insecurity.

As Chuck told me in a conversation, “We want to create as few barriers as possible for people finding housing, so they can focus on bettering themselves rather than every day trying to find shelter and safety.” He equated it with how people come to Christ. “Jesus doesn’t require us to make ourselves better before He will receive us. So why should we ask others to fix themselves up before we’re willing to help meet their needs?” Chuck also said that the housing first model has also been up and running in Seattle’s King County, and because of it, the average cost to taxpayers to take care of the homeless population in their community dropped four million dollars in one year. It has been a fiscal success as well as a humanitarian success. To this day, Love Overwhelming gets referrals from both our local city governments and local school districts in order to help house the homeless in our community.

Love Overwhelming also operates a ministry called the Urban Rest Stop. The Urban Rest Stop provides a place where those in need of shelter can come find warmth, food, provisions such as clothes and toiletries, and even a warm shower, all in the name of Jesus. There is also a case manager on site who can help walk guests through steps to getting needed SSI, SSD, sign up for insurance, and receive other critical assistance. Through December, the ministry will operate Monday to Wednesday mornings out of the Three Rivers House of Prayer (TriHOP) building located at 1335 11th Avenue in Longview. Beginning in January, the Urban Rest Stop ministry will change locations, though the new location is still undetermined.

In the near future, Love Overwhelming is hoping and praying to open a low barrier shelter that will operate 24-7 and seven days a week. “Low barrier” means that there will be few restrictions with regard to who can come find help getting out of the cold and into a place of safety. While they have the funds to move ahead with the low barrier shelter, the ministry is still seeking a facility that can/will house this shelter. Please pray that just the right location will be provided soon.

There are many ways you can help Love Overwhelming. Prayer is always a critical need. Love Overwhelming is also constantly in need of provisions, as everything they have to offer their guests is provided through donations. This time of year they are especially in need of cold weather gear including warm clothes (hats, gloves, socks, shirts, etc.), coats, sleeping bags, hand warmers, and blankets. Toiletries like small bars of soap and shampoo, as well as nutritious, non-perishable food are also a constant need.

Love Overwhelming is also always looking for people who are willing to volunteer their time. Volunteers are needed to help pack daily living essential bags that are handed out to guests. There are opportunities to serve in the mornings at the Urban Rest Stop as well as overnight (10 PM to 7 AM) at their extreme weather center, which provides overnight shelter for guests when the temperature drops below 31 degrees. There is also a fundraiser committee that is looking for volunteers who can help coordinate fundraising activities for Love Overwhelming.

Between now and Christmas, East Hills is going to be collecting new, warm hats and gloves. Half of these hats and gloves will be given to Love Overwhelming, while the other half will be given to Northgate City Church and their ministry to those in need. Please consider how you can help meet the need for hats and gloves for those struggling to stay warm this winter.

More info can be found at, or on Facebook:
All questions and contacts can be directed to Executive Director Chuck Hendrickson:  360.560.3913, or at

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