By LINDA WILLIAMS
Taking It To The Streets Ministries in Pulaski has been working for months to help the homeless in Pulaski and now its efforts are entering a new phase.
The street ministry first arrived in Pulaski in 2008 and began its service to area residents, in phase one through youth rallies, healing services, a 60-day crusade, and an 84-day revival. Efforts to feed and clothe the needy and provide dynamic evangelistic services were conducted at the ministry’s location at 223 N. Washington Ave.
Charlie Barbettini, pastor of Taking It To The Streets Ministries, who is a licensed and ordained street minister through Healing Wings Ministries and is licensed and working toward ordination in the International Pentecostal Holines Conference through the Appalachian Conference in Dublin, said that in 2010, God birthed “phase two” of the ministry.
“Prayer and donations for a bus began. After being led by God in 2013 a gospel recording group donated a 1973 Silver Eagle Bus to the ministry. Work began to revamp the bus and it is nearing completion. The bus will be used for disaster relief and ministry (youth and adult) locally and around the country.
Now Taking It To The Streets is working to answer God’s call to expand its Homeless Project by adding meals, relief and temporary overnight lodging for the homeless, bringing the ministry to a three-fold concept to combat homelessness in the surrounding area by opening the Warming Station in downtown Pulaski.
“This is not a homeless shelter. I want to be very clear about that,” said Barbettini, pastor of Taking It To The Streets Ministries.
According to Barbettini, the Warming Station will fill a seasonal need for those who have no means of warmth or shelter during the colder months of the year.
“In 2013 God led the ministry along with others to address the needs and concerns of the homeless people in downtown Pulaski and surrounding communities thus birthing the Homeless Project,” explained Barbettini. “Now God is giving clear directions in how He wants to take the Homeless Project to the next level. At this level arrives a Warming Station.”
Barbettini said the facility will be open October through March and allow relief for the homeless when temperatures fall below 40 degrees. The facility will be staffed with volunteers and will include one meal, bathrooms, and overnight lodging.
The homeless will have these accommodations from 7 p.m. the evening until 7 a.m. in the morning.
“We will help them in seeking help from local agencies for housing and long term stay,” said Barbettini.
“We have secured leases on two apartments located at the back of our facility, which is located at 223 N. Washington Ave. in Pulaski,” said Barbettini. “There were funds left in our Homeless Project account from last year so we were able to use that money to get the project started,” said Barbettini. “We knew last year that we needed to be prepared for cold weather this year.”
According to Barbettini, men and women will be separated with one apartment being used for the men and one for the women. Those staying overnight will be assisted by trained volunteers in making sure that they have a bed for the night, and are fed a hot meal.
“We will also refer the homeless to agencies in the area to help identify individual needs with the ultimate goal being permanent housing,” said Barbettini.
“We feel this is a good solution to a potentially tragic outcome, but we can do nothing alone. We need people of all walks of life to volunteer to help and churches to volunteer to feed the homeless during this time.
Last year with the monetary donations received from the community we were able to temporarily house the homeless at local motels in the town when the temperatures were most frigid and assist with permanent housing. With other donations we were also able to give the homeless who wanted to stay in the tents better sleeping bags and tents, blankets, shoes, clothing and food,” Barbettini recalled.
“Last year, local law enforcement was instrumental in helping us locate the homeless during some of the most un-seasonally cold weather in years. The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department helped us locate and bring the homeless out of tents located along railroad tracks in the town limits and place them in a warm motel. Without their help the outcome would have been tragic. Thanks to God and what He has provided we are better prepared to meet those needs this year,” said Barbettini.
Through the Homeless Project program, he noted, the ministry has developed a relationship with law enforcement and he is hopeful law enforcement’s burden has been eased as well.
“We have a place, but now we need volunteers. Volunteers are absolutely vital to the success of this program,” stated Barbettini. “We need at least four husband and wife teams who are willing to be trained to supervise and handle the needs of those staying overnight at the Warming Station from 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. in the morning,” said Barbettini. Volunteers will stay in a separate area within the apartment.
“We prefer husband and wife teams, but individual male and females volunteers to form teams is acceptable. We just need proper supervision for the two apartments through the night,” Barbettini said.
“I humbly ask people to pray and look deep into themselves and consider volunteering for this program,” he said.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to show God’s love for your fellow man. God can birth this project and we can answer the call, but it takes every one of us to be God’s hands and feet. It’s like I said before, before there can be any real change in the lives of the homeless they need to be fed and kept warm. We want to show them the love of Christ unconditionally. That is how Christ loves us, unconditionally. We do not have to get everything just right. He loves us where we are right now, said Barbettini.
“People are quick to judge. The why and how they got to this place isn’t nearly as important as how we can get them out. Some people find it very hard to love or be concerned about people like this, but we should follow Christ’s example. He loved and forgave the very ones who crucified Him,” said Barbettini. “Some may say ‘they deserve it! They’re drunk and they don’t work! Anything I do for them won’t do any good and if I give them anything they will just sell it for booze.’ Yes, they may do just that, but we will have shown them the love of Christ at one of the lowest points in their lives. We as people shouldn’t be willing to let them freeze to death on a cold winter’s night or go hungry just to prove a point,” Barbettini said.
“Everyone’s life has been affected by addiction and unemployment in one way or another. Wouldn’t you appreciate someone reaching out to your child, a brother or sister if they were beyond your reach and giving them a meal, a warm bed and an opportunity to find the help they need? We all need to think about that. If we do not show them the love of Christ we have failed,” he added. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Barbettini said the ministry is also asking churches to prayerfully consider providing meals for the homeless staying at the Warming Station. “There are many churches in the area and if many participate the burden is lighter for all,” said Barbettini.
“We are so new at this and there are many things we will learn as we go along, but if one church at a time commits to providing meals for just one week that would be very helpful,” he added.
“For example, one church might consider providing hot soup and sandwiches, that church could bring enough soup and sandwiches for the first two nights, then on the third and fourth nights bring something like spaghetti, salad and garlic bread, and so on like that until the week is complete. We all eat leftovers,” said Barbettini with a smile.
“We have the apartments, now we need to furnish them. We are reaching out to the community one more time. We are in need of some necessary items in order to open the Warming Station in mid-October. Leases for the apartments have just recently been finalized so we are in a tiny bit of a time crunch. We have five weeks to furnish the apartments,” he noted.
“We are not sure when the temperatures will be below 40 degrees, but we want to be prepared when they are,” he said.
Items needed for the apartments include:
-Cots with pads and plastic covers
– Plastic totes to stow bedding in the morning and personal property overnight
-Couches and chairs in good condition
– Lamps and tables
– Coffee pots
– Sleeping bags
– Disinfectant spray
– Anti-bacterial soap
-Toothbrushes and toothpaste
– Disposable shavers for men and women
– Socks and flip-flops for showering
– Monetary donations from clubs, organizations and businesses to help secure the things needed would be greatly appreciated as well. Donations will also be used to help with utility costs and rent.
“We know this is a big undertaking and that it will take a lot of God’s people joining together to make this a success, but we can help fill this need in our community if we all join together,” said Barbettini. “God bless you and we look forward to partnering with the communities to carry out God’s commission.”
If you would like to volunteer please call Charlie Barbettini at (276) 620-4293.
Taking It To The Streets Ministry is a 501c3 ministry. If you feel led to send a tax deductible gift please make the donation to Taking It To the Streets – The Homeless Project/Warming Station, P.O. Box 30, Pulaski, VA 24301 or go to www.streets4god.com and use the PayPal account. Taking It To The Streets is an interdenominational ministry.