Right after we moved to Ukraine (July 2007), we sought out a relationship with the Vinnytsia City Government. Our first contact was a Prayer Walk ministry every Monday morning, which we did rain, snow, or shine for 2 ½ years, until we moved out of the city. Through the years we developed a great relationship with the Social Services Department and they helped us establish our Ukraine non-profit charity organization, Vinnytsia – Heart of Ukraine.
Through our contact with Social Services we’ve met numerous times with many department heads and with the Vinnytsia City Mayor regarding the homeless, addicted and needy. They have not only become aware of the problems through our discussions, but have learned about the true needs and have in most cases disregarded the many stereotypes of these people.
In 2009, the city invited our ministry to feed and serve at the Emergency City Winter Shelter (tent). We feed two hot meals a week, provided minor medical items, shared blankets and winter clothes, etc… We have continued to do this each year when the Emergency City Winter Shelter was put up.
In late 2011, Vinnytsia City approached us about cooperating with them in regards to a Homeless Shelter for the city. In the past they had offered up potential buildings but only half-heartedly and only to help us, but the focus was different – they wanted a cooperative effort ! The agreement called for them to provide a building, remodel it, provide assistance with governmental issues (permits, inspections, etc…) and then to provide social services at the center as needed. Our part of the agreement would be to provide the entire program, volunteers or workers, and all the furniture/equipment. Since Laura worked for the USA government in contracting rehab type facilities she was able to create a draft contract for the project.
Money was supposed to be passed down from the federal government to major cities for the purpose of homelessness and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the money never made it’s way down, so nothing came of this renewed interest by the city.
Even though this last effort in 2011 did not end in success we were able to really educate a lot of people.
We are looking for a garage or warehouse we can rent. We hope to not only feed the homeless but allow them to come inside while they eat and warm themselves. Hopefully this will grow into a full time Homeless Shelter.
Please keep this project in your prayers as we look for a location to rent that is close to the train station where most of the homeless hang out.
During the winter of 2008, we began a feeding program. Initially it was only bags of food (staple items) for 4-6 people, but it grew to over 26 bags of food. In 2009-2010, we began a hot meal feeding program and phased out the food bags at the end of the winter. Initially we had only one feeding site, but eventually added second one. For the 2010-2011 winter, we changed sites (new construction) and added a second day; 2 sites 2x a week approximately 100 meals served each day.
For the 2011-2012 winter we added a 3rd site and an additional day. So we were on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3 locations: 1) (New) near the train station; 2) Near a recycling center (3rd year to feed here); 3) Near two recycling centers (2nd year to feed here). As of January 2012, we are feeding over 170 meals a day, that’s over 500 meals a week.
In the following years, we eventually moved to only one location near the train station in Vinnytsia. We often have over 50 people come to eat and feed over 500 meals a week. And we have been excited to see some church groups start feeding on different days, times, and locations around the train station.
There are several incredible aspects that go along with this increase in feeding:
We’ve accepted several new clients at David’s House Rehab Center through the feeding sites (about 80-85%), as their trust in us grows due our faithfulness in feeding and our relationship building with them.
At our feeding site, near the train station, the guests are almost all homeless (not needy who have a government assigned apartment or retirees) and the numbers have grown from the initial 6 to 35 in just 8 weeks (in 2012), and now to over 50.
Many of the needy and homeless are opening up to us and sharing their needs for clothing and other things; this goes against the strong cultural practice of putting on the mask, appearing like everyone else and not needing anyone’s help. Breaking through the homeless people’s suspicion has been really difficult here in Ukraine.
We prepare all the hot meals at David’s House Rehab Center and then take the meals to the locations where the homeless and needy naturally gather. Almost all the food used in the hot meals comes from the crops raised by David’s House. Most of the paper products come from the Metro store through their monthly donations to our ministry.