Congregation Opens Day Shelter

Rev. Ruth Marsh offers a cup of tea to Angi Rogers, a guest in the day shelter at Trinity United Methodist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Source: United Methodist News

When Trinity United Methodist Church of Idaho Falls, Idaho began renovations on its church in 2019, it never envisioned it would become a shelter for homeless individuals in the community.

According to Rev. Ruth Marsh, Trinity’s pastor, the upgrades — new showers, a washer, dryer, renovated kitchen — were intended to be used by church groups such as Scouts, small group bible studies, and auxiliaries in the church. However, the onset of the pandemic shifted plans.

Ideally situated with its industrial kitchen to survive daily meals, the church became a hub of homeless ministry activities in the community.

“Many coming here are the working poor; many of them live in their cars,” Marsh said. “If you’re going to work, you need to have had a meal, taken a shower and have clean clothes.

“People have come here and said, ‘I feel human again because I can get cleaned up, have a meal with other people and have someone listen to my story.’”

As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified and lockdowns became a new normal, the congregation decided to open the congregation’s empty sanctuary to men to sleep at night. (The city had a pre-existing women’s shelter.)

Open daily from 9 AM to 8 PM, the congregation added a free breakfast service to cater to residents. Through partnering with other area agencies and churches, they were able to develop a rotating meal schedule to ensure food insecurity wouldn’t be exacerbated.

“We do breakfast because if you miss dinner at the rescue mission at 6, then you’re out of luck until the soup kitchen serves lunch at noon,” Marsh said.

Robin Stewart, Chair of Trinity’s Administrative Council called the church’s day shelter “the one good thing out of the pandemic.”

“It’s exposed us to a population we didn’t know and, more importantly, it’s allowed that population the courage to come into a church,” he said. “A lot of them have been judged and they don’t feel comfortable.”

Additionally, Don Rohde, another member of the church added, “Our approach is, ‘We love you like you are.’ We realize that they will be on drugs and using alcohol when they come to us, and we accept that as part of who they are and the starting point they have to work from.”

Commenting on the congregation’s response to becoming a day shelter, she noted how God had prepared the church for this “season” and now they are able to walk as faithful witnesses in the community.

Source: United Methodist News