Thursday, September 4, 2008

Old First and Welcome Ministry Staff and Volunteers:

The Welcome Ministry staff, Pastor Megan and Jay, thank you for helping us create consistent boundaries for our guests and volunteers! We continuously evaluate how our programs support or create barriers for the homeless and hungry who are trying to improve their quality of life. We hope this will make our expectations more clear and provide a safer space for all who participate in the life and ministry of Old First.

Remember that it’s Jay and Megan’s job to work with individual requests, so if you have any questions or uncertainty, just refer them to us!

-We accept usable donations from anyone, provided we have room to store them.

Many times, we are aware of unusual individual or community needs for donations that seem unhelpful to others. For example, one guest donated a broken stereo which another guest was able to fix and use. So if a Welcome Ministry guest wants to donate something, please let us know and we can gladly accept it (or not, if we need to decline the 8 foot tall paper mache elephant). That doesn’t mean that everything is usable or redistributed, but many donations from church/community members aren’t usable either. One of the ways in which the Welcome Ministry is a community and an empowerment ministry (rather than a traditional charity) is that we encourage, welcome, and assist people to give back when they can. If we’re not here, and the items are small, put them in our offices, under the green benches, or ask the person to come back when we’re here.

-Please do not sub-contract work to guests.

If you want to employ a guest to do a one-time or ongoing job, you need to follow employment laws, pay at least minimum wage and go through Pastor Megan or Barry to do so. It is illegal, not ethical, and patronizing to pay homeless people under the table to do your work for you. It is even more unethical to ask guests to do your work for you for free, or to occasionally give them a small amount of cash to do your work for free. If you have more work than you can realistically do in your job at Old First or in volunteering, you need to discuss ways to solve this with your supervisor.

We welcome guests to volunteer, like we welcome anyone else to volunteer. Volunteer work is not paid, not professional-level work, and is entered into with a clear understanding of no pay.

It can be helpful and wonderful to help our guests to get real work for real pay, but please make sure that you are doing so in a way that is not keeping them from taking charge of their own life. All employees must be held to the same legal and performance standards -to do otherwise is discrimination. Remember that work can affect government benefits, so check with Jay to help a guest explore how to legally keep their benefits in good standing. However, Jay is not allowed to discuss details of guests’ finances with you without their written permission.

-Do not let Welcome Ministry guests (or others wanting to talk to Jay or Megan) in the building!

It may seem helpful to let people in and then inform us, but it is really unhelpful. We may be meeting with someone else, need a few minutes to prepare to meet with the person, or have already told the person we cannot meet their request and now must convince them to leave again. Also do not assume that because you know someone or because they often volunteer that they should be let in the building. We may have asked a regular volunteer to help in different ways or asked them not to come in early any more.

Megan and Jay are responsible for guests when in they are in the building, but it is difficult to be responsible when we don’t know who is in the building, where they are, or who let them in. The official waiting area for the Welcome Ministry is outdoors, not in the lobby. We hope some day to have a space where we have a waiting area and drop-in room, but for now this is how we try to be good stewards of the gift of the OFPC building and all who use it.

During regular office hours, there is really no reason that non-Welcome Ministry staff need to answer the door for our guests at all. If you do feel compelled to answer the door, simply ask them to ring the “Social Hall” button for Jay or “Welcome Ministry” button for Megan, or say, “I’ll go get Jay (or Megan),” and ask them to wait outside. You do not need to hear their request/story, give them anything, or ask what they need. It would be preferable to simply let us know the door needs to be answered. Often we are on our way to answer it before we hear from anyone, and then three people are trying to answer the door at once.

This is the same rule for everyone! Some church members (including Welcome Ministry guests) have keys if they have a need to be in the building, but most people who come to the church need to be let in. It’s helpful to enforce the rules clearly and consistently rather than selectively. Remember that choosing who you do and do not enforce a rule with based on whether you like someone, politeness, whether or not they look homeless, their grammar, or how cleanly they’re dressed is discrimination. If you let them in because they have a legitimate reason that they need to be in the building, regardless of these factors, that is not discrimination but doing business—just watch that your judgment of this is based on reasons and facts rather than stereotypes or rules that only are applied to people who look homeless.

Anytime you let someone in the building to use the bathroom or for another group (Welcome Ministry, Concerts or AA), you should wait with them until they leave the building or someone from the group they are with comes to greet them.

If Megan and Jay are not in the building, you can let a guest know that our activities are posted on the door and additional information about how to make an appointment is posted outside in the display case by the elevator door. Guests who call the church office should be directed to Jay at 424-3536 or Megan at 567-2661.

-Please do not give cash to guests/volunteers!

We want to make it clear that the Welcome Ministry does not give cash to guests. Instead, we help individuals with specific money problems, such as budgeting help, getting a payee, getting discounted services, helping with food/clothing/toiletries, referrals to community agencies, or getting addiction help.

The Welcome Ministry says “no” to all requests for money, and we ask all members and staff of the church to do the same. We also ask our guests not to ask for money in the church. When people give money to the few individuals who do ask for money, it is not fair to guests that follow the rules. Additionally, by giving cash, we teach them to keep coming to us for cash and the root of their problems never get solved.

If someone asks you for money, we encourage you to say something like “no, we don’t give cash, but you can talk to Jay about other ways you can meet your need.” Please DO NOT say, “ask Jay or Megan,” since you know our answer has to be no. It’s more helpful for people to hear a consistent “No.” If you feel compelled to personally give cash, do not do it on church grounds and make clear that it’s not from the church or the Welcome Ministry.

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