A guest’s typical day at the Sister Isaac Center
We are open Monday through Thursday, barring holidays and our summer break in August. Our goal is to serve up to 35 people each day. There was a time when we operated on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis but we’d have people showing up at 2 or 3am trying to be sure they would get in. We switched to a lottery system. We advise our guests to arrive around 8:15 – 8:25; we open our doors at 8:30 and we allow in everyone that is waiting ,,,,, even if there are 40 or more. Once we allow the initial crowd in, we then close the doors for the day if we have 35 or more; otherwise we leave the door open until we hit 35 or until it is 11:30.
Each person signs in, and we then have a drawing to determine the sequence they are seen. Our front desk does intake, talks to each person and briefly documents the guest’s needs for the day. If the guest is in need of financial assistance, they add their name to a special request list if they are eligible. (A guest may only receive financial help once every 6 months). This list does have a daily limit of 10 names.
The guest then waits until an interviewer is available to address their material needs; our volunteer talks to them to get further specifics, often lending an ear to allow them to share problems they are dealing with in their lives, just relieved to have someone that’s willing to listen. The interviewer then excuses themself and heads back to the storage areas and ‘shops’ for their guest’s needs: clothing, household items, hygiene products and food. They gather any items that seem to fit the bill, and bring them back to their guest to peruse and determine if it fits their needs.
If the guest is in need of furniture, appliances or a bike, they also speak to one of our furniture specialists; we show them furniture we have in inventory and arrange delivery if necessary.
If they requested financial help, they wait for their turn in the front office to speak to the Director or an assistant; we have a discussion to understand why they need financial assistance and how we can best help them. We don’t disburse cash, we issue checks to vendors we recognize: utility companies, housing authority, gas station or drugstores that agree to accept our checks, etc. In most cases, we offer $40 – $50. In some dire cases, we are able to offer more help thanks to grants we receive from several different sources. We also try and offer advice on any challenges they are dealing with
When all is done, they pack up their goods, bid us adieu, and go on their way, sometimes with a request for a parting hug or a prayer which is always available for free!