“HUB” Day 4: 40 Days of Haven Reflection

In 2012 I was working for Trinity Baptist Church. The church had just redeveloped an abandoned Albertsons grocery store into the TriPoint Center for Life community center. It has a coffee shop, large assembly hall, smaller meeting rooms, lobby, and YMCA. It’s a great community center and the church did a wonderful job creating the spaces.

When the church first opened the center it had a computer lab near the lobby for people to use. The original intent of the computer lab was to have people, visiting the YMCA or coffee shop, check emails or get on social media. However, even in 2012 most everyone with a cell phone had access to email and social media on their smartphones and didn’t need a large computer to use. Therefore, most people who needed to use the computer lab (just like at local libraries) were the unhoused community.

At first, the church didn’t mind the mixture of people in the computer lab and celebrated the diversity (like in my 2012 post below). However, in time, the coffee shop and other stakeholders in the building began to realize that the unhoused clients were beginning to disturb others, worry paying clients, and cause problems in the building and bathrooms. Some of the complaints were valid and some were not so much but the issue created a lot of debates, discussion and replanning.

I really hoped that we could come up with a creative option for the unhoused visitors in the community center, but in the end the church decided to take out the computers and repurpose the room. These are the hard choices many places have to make when serving the broader community. Sometimes we are tempted to take the easy way out instead of working together to create something that might be transformative and work for all types of people.

TriPoint is still a great place and overall the church does so much good for the community and neighborhood.

In 2012 I asked this question:

Many people, including myself, have a hard time managing how we serve the homeless in a community center such as TriPoint (which is open to all people).  How can we serve all types of people at the same time?  It can be awkward, challenging, and painful.  How do we balance safety concerns, Christian hospitality, programs, and flow without limiting the freedom of all community members?  I would love to know your thoughts!  There are all kinds of responses to this dilemma.

I would still value your thoughts in 2022. Please feel free to comment or share on this post or social media.

During the pandemic Corazon San Antonio and The City of San Antonio DHS operated a HUB for people experiencing homelessness at the San Fernando Gym downtown. It was a huge success that lead to the recreation of the Corazon Day Center and Resource HUB as well as incubate more smaller hubs around the city.

Our previous daily resource center operated from 1999-2008. In 2008, Haven for Hope began to be built, and Corazón scaled back our services as a result because the city moved all funding to Haven. But the COVID-19 pandemic showed there was a daily need for the type of service Corazón offers, where all are welcome and there are no qualifications needed to receive services. So, our team worked with the City of San Antonio’s Department of Human Services, Centro, and others to stand up a temporary daily service hub at San Fernando. The hub provided hot meals, access to primary health care, dermatology services, clothing, personal hygiene products, recovery and spiritual support, warm showers, ID recovery and creative art activities.

The HUB meets the holistic needs of those we serve, functioning as a single point of entry for clients to receive a continuum of services. Our case managers and peer recovery coaches have lived experience with homelessness and/or substance use issues. They are trained in providing culturally aware, peer-based education at each client encounter.

Since last summer, 300+ clients have received case management services and these efforts have transitioned 230+ people to shelter, housing/sober living, or detox/treatment. We know through years of engagement that many clients are resistant to accept services like transitional housing, and that an effective way to make this progression is through offering consistent, low-barrier services and building meaningful relationships.

Other key results from 2021:
1) We provided 450-600 healthy meals weekly. This includes 9,266 meals provided at the permanent Day Center in the first five months of operations, and an additional 2,000 meals provided Sundays at Travis Park Church during the same period.
2) We distributed over 5,500 hygiene kits this year, including kits distributed at the Resource HUB (in partnership with the City of San Antonio) and the Day Center. These kits included toiletry items, PPE, and sanitizing supplies.
3) Through our shared mobile shower unit partnership with Christian Assistance Ministries, we provided between 30-40 individuals with hot showers each week.
4) Our free, volunteer-led medical clinics served 781 patients in 2021, with 1,906 medical encounters. Individuals were provided with basic preventative and acute care and free medications

Offering low-barrier options for accessing essential services and building trust through a trauma- informed approach is critical to help the chronically homeless and unsheltered individuals we serve deal with crisis situations, manage chronic conditions, and take steps towards stability.

“HUB” 2012 Original Post:
Right now I am wrItng this post at my church’s TriPoint Center for Life.  A few years ago people in our church, such as Tom Hill, had a dream to develop an abandoned Albertson’s Grocery Store into an active community center.  It’s really a neat place.  Over 800 people visit the community center and YMCA…that’s pretty awesome.  Actually that’s about the same number of people who worship with us on Sundays.  It’s not the same people…but it makes you step back and examine where people are searching for community.

The Mayor of San Antonio used TriPoint to kick-off and conclude his San Antonio 2020 experiment because this place was for “all the people of San Antonio,” unlike the corporate convention centers and hotel ballrooms found all along the Riverwalk. There is a YMCA on one side of the building, a coffee shop on the other, public restrooms, and a free computer hub with 5 computers for people to use who live in this community and need a place to connect.  There is also 3 smaller meeting rooms for local organizations, non-profits, and companies to rent out to have meetings and interactive presentations.  In the back of the building is the Grantham Center, a large meeting space, where our church hosts Skate Church every Wednesdays from 4-8pm, and The Crossings worship experience every Sunday morning at 10:45am.  The Crossings is a place were broken people like me can go to worship God and experience the lavish love of Christian community.  We all are in the same boat…and need the Body of Christ.

Okay, I will stop with the plugs. Back to “The Hub” (with our free computer and receation room), and Grace Coffee Cafe at TriPoint.  For me, this is what makes TriPoint stand apart from many other community centers.  The other day, I had a meeting with a President of renowned Texas bank and other community leaders in the same area where homeless people where gathering to catch up on emails and seek community.  This was not forced…it was the place we all happened to meet.  There are not many places other than bars that can attract those two types of people.  Yesterday, Tom Hill and I were meeting and saw another CEO from San Antonio having a meeting with colleagues just outside the Hub where about 10 homeless people were watching YouTube videos, making phone calls, and listening to music.  That’s a beautiful image of Jesus Christ.  A CEO and a homeless person drinking the same cup-of-joe at TriPoint…I love it!

Lent 2022
10 Years ago, I decided to live on the streets of San Antonio during the Lenten season to learn about homelessness in San Antonio and how I could better understand the community through acts of solidarity. I was a youth pastor at Trinity Baptist Church, and at the time, the congregation was grappling how to serve the unhoused population at their newly opened TriPoint Community Center. I had very little understanding of the realities of homelessness and wanted to better understand the community before I formed any opinion of services. Little did I know how formative the 40+ days would end up being for me!

The journey was not perfect but It was a life changing event that unexpectedly changed the direction of my life, ministry, and calling. I have the privilege of now looking back on those days, the relationships formed, and lessons learned from a much different perspective. I am going to post each daily “40 Days of Haven” blog post during lent unedited with only some slight name changes for clarity and then post a current reflection. (In 2012, I was still protecting some identities to respect their own story.)

I hope you enjoy, read with lots of grace and forgiveness, and reflect with me during this Lenten Season of 2022. -gavin

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