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Christian Care Celebrates 100 Years Of Service To The Homeless

Christian Care, 2209 3rd Avenue in Rock Island
WVIK News
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WVIK News
Christian Care, 2209 3rd Avenue in Rock Island

A local homeless shelter is celebrating a major milestone this weekend. Christian Care in Rock Island will commemorate 100 years of service to the homeless with a birthday party Saturday.

Two years ago, Otis Roberts was living off his unemployment benefits in Moline.

"I ran out of my unemployment, my income went dry because I was trying for disability and it completely broke me so I had nowhere to go," Roberts says.

He slept in his car for three weeks before a family friend connected him with the staff at Christian Care.

"It was very hard because I'm not the type of person who wants to ask for help because I'd rather do it myself," Roberts says. 

Roberts is disabled. Problems with his back and leg prevent him from working a standard work shift. Since coming to Christian Care two years ago, he has signed up for health insurance and gets therapy. And he's applying for disability benefits.

"It's a good place," he says. "They do a lot for you."

Christian Care is a homeless shelter for men in downtown Rock Island. Pam Hauman, outreach coordinator, says it has evolved quite a bit over the last hundred years.

"It's not just a shelter where men come to get fed, clothed and provided room and board," she says. "It's programming and counseling, case management, opportunities to find out job opportunities in the community, additional educational or vocational training."

Hauman says there are a number of factors that can lead to homelessness, including mental health issues, lack of education or employment, sudden disasters such as fire or death, or growing up with generational poverty or in broken homes from divorce or removal from the home in cases of abuse.

The original shelter was founded by Guy Rogers back in 1916. Rogers was training to be a professional boxer.

"Somewhere along the line, things started to fall apart, he became an alcoholic and he was living on the streets," Hauman says. "One day he finds a $20 bill on the sidewalk — now we're talking 1916, that's a lot of money — and felt he was saved by Jesus that day. So he took that $20 and opened a one-room storefront shelter for homeless men."

And now, a hundred years later, Christian Care provides shelter to 38 homeless men in dormitory style bedrooms. It also serves as a heating center in the winter and a cooling center in the summer. It serves about 60,000 meals a year and provides clothing.

Hauman says there's less of stigma surrounding mental illness than there used to be, especially for veterans, which make up 30 percent of the shelter's residents.

"Because we're seeing a lot of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, difficulties reintegrating back home, and so I think that people understand that that can happen to anyone," Hauman says.

Otis Roberts says that if people are willing to work for it, Christian Care can help them find stability. But he says the residents also help each other.

"I call it a dysfunctional family," Roberts says. "We've all been in the same shoes. When you have some of the staff that hasn't been an alcoholic or a drug addict, that they don't know what you're going through, it's kind of hard to talk to that person."

Eighty percent of Christian Care residents eventually become employed. Hauman says that usually takes about one to two years.

"It takes a while to kind of become comfortable talking to people about what's going on with you, deciding what your future is going to look like and then planning out how you're going to get there as far as stability and independence."

Christian Care is encouraging people to join the "$100 For 100 Years Club" by donating one dollar for each year the organization has served the community. The birthday celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 2209 3rd Avenue in Rock Island.

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