In the last 72 hours, downtown Raleigh got around 8 inches of rain. That is just a little under 20% of what we get in a normal year.
This was the scene outside the door of the Community Engagement Center this morning.
We had a packed house again today, filled with soggy people with no place to go, many of whom were outside the night before. Our meager clothing closet was raided hard as people looked for dry clothes, and friends brought a new supply of towels and foot powder to help deal with all of the cases of waterlogged feet.
Our new volunteers have went above and beyond this week, helping us make sure we provide hospitality and relational space. They all bring their gifts – organizing, medical knowledge, conversation, the willingness to be there – and together, it all adds up.
One scene from today particularly touched me:
Around 9:30 this morning, caseworkers from another local agency brought a 26 year old man, let’s call him Jimmy, to the CEC. Jimmy had just gotten out of jail in a small town, and the jail had given him a bus ticket to Raleigh, and he got in early this morning, with a bag of clothes, no relationships with anyone, and in the middle of a flood.
“He doesn’t have anywhere to go”, the caseworker said. “Can you take him from here?”
“We got it,” I said.
I asked Jimmy where he was planning on sleeping tonight. He told me he had no idea. He had family in Virginia, but he didn’t want to go back there yet – he wasn’t sure they would take him in.
Anthony was standing nearby. “Man, you gotta go to the men’s shelter tonight. You ever been there before?”
Jimmy: I’ve never even been to Raleigh before. Where is it?
Anthony: Man, stick with me. I am going there when we leave here – I will hook you up. Stick with me.
Later that day, I watched as Anthony and Jimmy walked away, after the rain had stopped and the sun began to shine, headed off together to find Jimmy a place to sleep tonight in a city strange to him.
That is what we do here. We provide space where the stranger can enter and become a friend. Where Jimmy can come in the midst of the storm and find shelter and someone who can help him move forward. Where Anthony can share his knowledge and contribute and help others.
But most of all, on a stormy day, both Jimmy and Anthony had a place to be, and that opened up doors for both of them.