Workers Find Lodging at Williston Church | VideoEvan Kruegel | 7/3/2012
"If we weren`t here, we`d be sleeping in your lawns, we`d be sleeping in the Walmart and McDonalds bathrooms, so this is good. When we`re here, you know where we are. This is the only place in the country where you can be homeless and gain 10 pounds a month," said Joe Lee, a worker staying at the church.
Pastor Jay Reinke knew something had to be done about the transient issue, so he opened the church overnight to workers-in-need.
"When someone looks me in the eye and says, `Pastor, I have no place to stay.` It is very hard for me to just say, `Good luck.`"
At night the parking lot gets quite full. In addition to those staying inside, dozens of others stay outside in their cars. The next morning, it`s as if nothing ever happened. Overnighters are told to leave by 8:00 a.m. and not to return until nightfall.
"We also say you can`t hang around the church during the day, be careful not to hang around in the park. We try to give those instructions so that their presence doesn`t become a burden for other people," said Reinke.
The church has become a community of sorts for many workers. Everyone on the site must pass a background check, and only those who are serious about finding work are allowed to stay.
"We all pitch in, we all do the chores, we all get the cleaning done and we self-police this place. If we see something going on that`s not right, we let the pastor know, and he deals with it," said Lee.
The church has no idea how long this will go on, but the pastor knows the need is bigger than ever.
"Its origin wasn`t a plan, it just sort of began. It`s kind of like riding a tidal wave, you`re not sure how far it`s going to go or how it`s going to end. But for now, we`re riding the wave. And as needs change, our response will change, but we really don`t know what the next day will bring."