AUSTIN (Aug. 13, 2021) — For an unhoused person, tasks many of us take for granted – washing clothes, taking a shower – can become burdens.
“I don’t know that most people understand how difficult it is for a homeless person to navigate the world,” says Leah Hargrave, Director of Mosaic Street Ministry. “We have some people that come to us that might spend two hours on a bus.”
Mosaic Street Ministry, a ministry of Mosaic Church in northwest Austin, has operated every Sunday throughout the entire pandemic as a drop-in center for people experiencing homelessness, providing food, clothing, and navigation services like housing assessments, obtaining ID cards, and filing for COVID-19 stimulus checks.
Mosaic Street Ministry is Fiercely Focused on ending homelessness.
“One of the things that’s the most meaningful to me serving people on the street is just getting to know their stories personally,” Hargrave says. “And I always tell people they’re not a project of mine, but a friend. And so I view helping people as just one friend helping another in need.”
Hargrave and the group of volunteers who keep Mosaic working every week focus on building community and showing unhoused people love and care. “It’s more than just, ‘Here you go, bye,'” says Maria Cheserem, a volunteer who runs Mosaic’s sorting department, which is responsible for keeping track of clothing and other necessities donated to the group, as well as filling orders for people every Sunday. “It’s, ‘How can we help? How can we pray for you? What are your needs? Where can we help you?'”
Twice a month, Mosaic partners with Lighter Loads ATX to provide showers, laundry services, and a hot lunch to dozens of people. “They can literally not only wash off the dirt of the day, but the cares of the day as well,” says Lighter Loads’ Executive Director James Ritchie.
Hargrave provides most of the navigation services herself on Sundays and meets people wherever they are throughout the week to work toward obtaining documents and housing. She’s in the process of opening a formal navigation center in north Austin called the Charlie Center.
“What I’m looking to do is kind of have that North Austin hub where people can come during the week and get some of those same services that I’ve been offering on Sundays,” she explains, adding there’s not a place that offers those services in this part of the city.
As she expands into this new endeavor, she hopes to expand the reach of the navigation services she and a staff can offer. “We really love people,” she says. “We love the people that we serve. We see them as family. And I think people know that.”