Yahoo is publishing first-person accounts from readers who are surviving the cold snap that’s affecting large portions of the country this week.
FIRST PERSON | Since New Year’s Day the temperatures have been dropping over the Midwest and the forecast for worse has been ominous. I spent the first day of 2014 freezing to death in a hospital room with kidney stones while the wind screamed past my room’s large plate glass window, worrying about the homeless people living in this community of 26,000 who had no shelter for the night. I could only lay there and hope Mary Margaret and her army of angels had come up with a solution for our homeless crisis. This fall both our women’s shelter and our men’s shelter were permanently closed.
When Mary Margaret Riedel Butler and Sarah Meeker stepped out in faith to begin their ministry, Whatsoever You Do, they had no idea what would come of it or where it would go. But in six months they have 2,000 troops, an army of angels, stepping forward to intervene at every moment of crisis. By the time I was discharged from the hospital Saturday afternoon, the temperatures were dropping and Mary Margaret was in full commando mode.
Funds were quickly depleting as she arranged for homeless people to sleep in hotel rooms and motel rooms all over this little community. After 24 hours of deliberations, dialogue, brain-storming, Mary Margaret’s team elected to rent an apartment, a temporary measure, but one meant to get people off the streets and out of the cold. So Mary Margaret posted how much was needed to cover the rent on the apartment, and in a matter of hours Whatsoever You Do had two months’ rent covered. Not only that, but they had offers of, meals, food, sleeping mats, beds, recliners, tables and chairs, towels and toiletries pouring in.
Mary Margaret says, “We’re always going to have homeless in this town. There is no way to pinpoint how many there are. Parents kick kids out. One spouse kicks another spouse out. People are wandering the streets due to mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse issues. People have a medical crisis that bankrupts them and their landlord kicks them out because they can’t pay their rent. We have a couple living out of their car at the moment because they lost their apartment due to a medical crisis. He has a job, but he has no money for gas to get back and forth to work. We try to help people who are willing to help themselves, and we need shelter that can keep families together in a crisis.”
John and Mary Margaret Butler say Whatsoever You Do is helping 12 people right this minute, but those 12 people would be on the streets in wind chills of -40 degrees Fahrenheit except for this organization. More people are being referred to them on a daily basis.
“We went to churches, but because of liability issues, churches don’t want to open their doors to the homeless. We should be a place of last resort, but we’re not. We wound up being the only resort. This apartment is temporary, but it’s a warm place for these people now. With the current economy, we are going to have more and more homeless people,” Mary Margaret says.
“The phenomenal rate at which Whatsoever You Do is growing is an amazing thing, but it also makes me nervous. I’m just trying to keep up. We have not gone looking for growth. It is coming through the door to us. We have had wonderful people step forward who want to become part of this, and we now have a Whatsoever You Do organization in 5 counties in Iowa. A lady in St. Louis is interested in organizing one, and a woman in Florida has come forward about getting one up and running there. I want people to believe in us, believe in what we represent, and to feel like they can trust us to do what they are helping us do. I have a lot of hope for this,” Mary Margaret says.
Last night at 4:00 AM when the wind was screaming through the walls of my insulated house, when I was checking the water to make sure it was still dripping, when I was trying to see out the frosted windows of my front door to make sure my son made it home okay, I shivered in my flannel nightgown, and thanked the good Lord that the Whatsoever You Do team found a temporary solution to this weekend’s crisis, and those who were homeless yesterday have found shelter for this night.