This is in response to the letter "Homeless Need Help on Holidays," authored by Pat Allsbury, executive director, Stepping Stone Shelter, Liberal. In her letter, the author seeks to draw negative comparisons between Emmaus House, Garden City, and Stepping Stone Shelter. As I will explain below, this is comparing apples to oranges. Each facility seeks to provide for needs of the destitute and/or homeless, but there the similarity ends.

Emmaus House, like Stepping Stone Shelter, is a homeless shelter, providing the same or similar facilities including beds, bedding, laundry facilities and meals. Like Stepping Stone, Emmaus House has full-time employees. Emmaus House does not provide clothing as there are other charitable facilities in Garden City that do, and we feel it unnecessary to duplicate services. Unlike Stepping Stone, Emmaus House does not place a limit on how long a person can stay. As long as a guest is trying to improve themselves, i.e. seeking employment, a permanent place to live, etc., that person is welcome. A resident is required to secure clearance from local law enforcement to verify that person is not a fugitive.

Three hot meals are served every day. Breakfast is limited to house guests. The other meals are served to house guests and others who meet our financial criteria, have a place to live but do not have facilities to prepare meals. Evening meals are served by volunteers. One or more volunteers stay overnight to oversee the house, etc.

The largest outlay of food is in food boxes. Individuals or families who meet our financial guidelines are given food boxes two times each week, with each intended to provide sufficient food until the next distribution. Recipients are screened to meet financial guidelines set up by Emmaus House. Food is donated by various local entities or purchased if at all possible at low or reduced cost. Like Stepping Stone, Emmaus House does not receive local government funding. Emmaus House does receive a portion of the Emergency Shelter Grant funded by the state and administered through the city of Garden City.

In 2008, Emmaus House distributed the equivalent of 259,536 meals, served at table and food boxes; 13,326 food boxes were given out.

Not to ignore the issue raised by Ms. Allsbury, it is true that Emmaus House closes over holidays, to give our employees and volunteers time with their families. Residents are advised in advance, the staff try to help residents make arrangements and extra large food boxes are given out when necessary.

It is not the intention of Emmaus House to get into a conflict with Stepping Stone Shelter. We are thankful there is another shelter in southwest Kansas also seeking to meet very real needs.

When Stepping Stone was getting started, the executive director of Emmaus House traveled to Liberal to help the then-director with written policies and procedures. Over her 11 years with Emmaus House, our executive director has offered similar assistance to new shelters in southwest Kansas. Ministries of this nature should help one another as much as is reasonable in addressing people's genuine needs.



Hodson is president of the Emmaus House Board of Directors.