Down the alley and up the stairs, I enter the Warm Zone. No, that’s not a comment on the hot weather we had last week, but the name of Abbotsford’s only drop-in for homeless and street-entrenched women.
In some ways there isn’t much to see—at the top of the stairs, there is a series of lockers, a multi-purpose room for eating and just about everything else, a kitchen, bathroom and shower, laundry room, living room/sleeping room, a few crowded offices for storage/outreach staff/counselling. With the exception of the large outdoor deck at one end, the Warm Zone is narrow, and every space seems to be doing at least double-duty.
Yet on another level, I see a lot as I talk with the women I meet there—I see a safe place providing basic necessities for women on the street. I see support for women who are struggling to survive in the face of poverty, abuse, addiction, physical and mental illness, and other issues. I see three years of community-building and helping over 3000 women. I see the hope of recovery.
I’m writing all of this in the present tense since my visit to the Warm Zone is still so fresh in my mind. But in spite of all the good work and in spite of the on-going need, the Warm Zone could become a thing of the past due to lack of funding.
As a pastor, why do I care? As a church, why should we care?
Three thoughts keep going through my mind:
(1) if I were homeless, I would need the Warm Zone
(2) as a community, we need the Warm Zone to address the needs of vulnerable women and help prevent any more Missing Women.
(3) Jesus teaches us to care for “the least of these”—those who are “hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison” (Matthew 25).
To learn more about the Warm Zone, see the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley, or this article from the Abbotsford Times. Or contact Linda Klippenstein who is a member of Emmanuel and sees her involvement at the Warm Zone as part of what it means to be the church. She would love to hear from you! email@example.com