With winter nights getting colder and joblessness on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Benedict’s homeless shelter is helping the displaced public stave off these hardships through their seventh annual bed sponsorship campaign.
Under the campaign, organizations and businesses can sponsor a bed for $500 that will help shelter a homeless individual.
Along with providing a warm bed for the night, the proceeds build a road to self sufficiency for the more than 500 male residents that take refuge there annually.
While at St. Benedict’s, 1001 W. 7th St., the men receive services such as a hot meal, a place to shower and laundry facilities in a Christian environment. It also provides them with case management services and other resources for up to one year.
“We’ve helped so many with their first month’s rent to move into their own apartment, or we’ve helped with application fees, or with medications, and we do all of that out of the bed sponsorship funds,” St. Benedict’s Executive Director Harry Pedigo said.
St. Benedict’s does this campaign every year, because it generates between $120,000 to $140,000 of the shelter’s annual $400,000 budget. Without the funds, the shelter would be limited in the services that it would be able to provide, he said.
But the $500 doesn’t just benefit the homeless shelter; it serves as a tax write-off for the sponsors, and St. Benedict’s will recognize all of its sponsors on a plaque that’s displayed in the shelter, if those sponsors choose to be named.
“What that does is just as valuable as the money itself, because it demonstrates to the clients that we serve unity within the community and support and that they’re not alone,” he said.
Pedigo said the shelter is also a ministry and believes in treating people the way Jesus Christ would with love and compassion, with the hope that St. Benedict’s residents see Christ through the its actions. This means allowing other church groups and ministries to host Bible studies with their residents so that they’re able to hear the word of God.
“That’s what makes us such an ecumenical ministry and not inclusive to one specific religion,” Pedigo said.
Because the campaign has been so successful throughout the years, St. Benedict’s has been able to maximize the quantity and quality of provided services.
With the successes the shelter has had throughout the years, the spread of the COVID-19 virus has slowed that streak by impacting its operations. For example, St. Benedict’s has had to cut volunteer hours, which has affected its annual budget.
“We’ve had to absorb that cost of not having volunteers, and so we’ve had to work all of our staff full time and overtime, and so it’s just been really rough during this (pandemic),” Pedigo said. “We’ve spent a lot of money just trying to maintain a safe, healthy facility.”
Another is who the shelter is able to receive. In the past, it was able to accept the local homeless population as well as those outside the state. Now, because the coronavirus has increased the number of the displaced, it’s only accepting residents from Daviess and Ohio counties during the pandemic.
“The reason is, we do get support from Daviess County and Ohio County, so we consider those our primary residents, and we try to keep down on taking people that are transient and traveling because of this COVID,” Pedigo said.
For those that are accepted in, the homeless shelter checks residents’ temperatures every day. If they’re showing symptoms, then they’re tested for the virus.
“We’ve tested the whole facility five times during this pandemic,” he said.
So far, only five cases of the virus have emerged since continuing operations within the pandemic period. For those that tested positive, Pedigo said they were housed in the Women and Family facility after it was shutdown and converted into a quarantine area. This helped to contain the spread relatively quickly, he said.
But the virus hasn’t stopped one such resident from finding his road to self sufficiency through St. Benedict’s, and that’s 64-year-old Allen Perkins.
After serving 15 months in Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington, Perkins rode a bus to Owensboro and checked into a sober living facility for a day. The next day, he called his probation officer, who led him to St. Benedict’s.
When he first entered the shelter’s doors July 8, Perkins was penniless and had only a few garments of clothing to call his own. From there, he was able to secure a bed and tap into local resources and programs that helped get him work, get his social security income reinstated, helped build his bank account, purchase a car and find an apartment that he’ll soon move into.
He’s also taken advantages of the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that the shelter hosts, which has contributed to a more positive lifestyle, he said.
“I have nothing bad to say bad about (the shelter). I’ve been blessed to be here,” Perkins said.
To sponsor a bed at St. Benedict’s homeless shelter, visit stbenedictsowensboro.org/sponsor-a-bed.