When Alan Bradish trains those who wish to serve the area’s homeless people, he opens the session with several questions.
“I always share with volunteers the first question man asked God, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?'” Bradish said. “Do I have an obligation to anyone in this life other than myself while I am here on this earth? And our 90 volunteers have come to the conclusion that they have an obligation to someone other than themselves. “
A lifelong resident of Jacksonville, 74-year-old Bradish is the founder and director of Temporary Emergency Overnight Shelter Accommodation, located in an old ambulance company building on the corner of North Main Street and Walnut Street in Jacksonville. The overnight homeless shelter has 24 beds and has proven to be a gift from God on the cold winter nights of this season.
“I don’t care if you see this as a humanitarian effort or a ministry effort,” Bradish tells his volunteers, many of whom oversee the shelter overnight. “It’s a win-win situation because people benefit from your commitment.”
Bradish is a former educator who has served as a chaplain with the Salvation Army at Passavant Hospital since retiring and has served as chaplain for the Jacksonville Police Department, where he “feels fulfilled in being with such a good group of people.”
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Bradish’s most recent call came last year when New Directions Thermal Insulation was closing its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The original plan was for the shelter to reopen in July when the Phase 4 COVID mitigations go into effect. However, New Directions decided it would not reopen until the Phase 5 attenuations had been completed and a large-scale vaccine had been administered.
“We knew we were in deep water for the winter and we didn’t have a backup plan,” said Bradish. “That’s when the idea for TEOSA arose and we looked for a place for the program.”
The decision to open a new homeless shelter was an easy one. It was difficult to achieve.
“The doors have been closed for each of the locations we looked at,” Bradish said. Locations included a building on the square in downtown Jacksonville and the former Times Theater building on East State Street, both of which encountered opposition.
That same week, the Jacksonville Plan Commission denied Bradish’s application to rededicate the Times Theater building. Mayor Andy Ezard and Ambulance Director Phil McCarty came up with a plan to negotiate a lease for the ambulance company’s old building at 948 N. Main St. City.The council approved the plan, and the city funded a six-month lease to operate an animal shelter.
“It worked out wonderfully, the city stepped on the plate, not only providing the rental agreement, but also the utilities and insurance,” said Bradish. “God is good. It was a real blessing.”
People immediately responded with donations to set up the temporary shelters, including televisions, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, linens, clothing, and toiletries for the men’s and women’s sections of the shelter, which are physically separated for added safety and security Privacy. Bradish said he receives calls almost every day from people wanting to donate items. He said a student project from Our Savior School resulted in the donation of baskets to be given to homeless people who can finally move into homes.
“The first I introduced was to someone who had just moved into a one-bedroom apartment and it was the first time in seven years that they had slept in a bed,” said Bradish. “Her eyes just shone, she didn’t know it was coming.”
“Four people who stayed with us in the past now have their own seats,” said Bradish. “We’re trying to make ourselves unemployed.”
The layout of the temporary shelter allows cots and beds to be properly placed for COVID-19 precautions, and guests and volunteers wear masks except when they are eating or sleeping. In the women’s area there is a separate room for families who need even more privacy. Shelter users can shower, have breakfast, and select donated clothing to keep. Twenty-four people can be accommodated in the overnight accommodation from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. The highest number of guests so far was nine, and the only zero night was Super Bowl Sunday, Bradish said.
Shelter guests must first obtain police clearance and health screening, available daily from 4pm to 5pm at the Jacksonville Police Department Substation at 300 E. Walnut St., prior to checking into the shelter. Registered sex offenders and people with pending arrest warrants are not allowed to stay there. Bradish appreciates the support the Police Department, Midwest Youth Services, and Morgan County’s Coroner Office have provided to assist with daily health checks and police clearances for customers.
Male volunteers oversee the men’s department overnight and female volunteers oversee the women’s department. So far, more than 90 people have completed the two-hour training course for volunteers to become supervisors overnight, to clean, to bring meals or to do other tasks in the volunteer home.
Bradish said West Central Mass Transit provides transportation services for shelter guests to get them to and from work, community hope and recovery and the Salvation Army, and to and from their daily health checkups. Community Hope and Recovery in the square provides personal toiletries and clothing if the shelter’s guests need these items, and provides shelter guests from 8-10 a.m. weekdays with assistance with accommodation, social security, documents, and other guidance to them move forward.
The Jacksonville Food Bank provides food for the shelter’s morning breakfast, the Spirit of Faith Center serves daytime meals, and the Salvation Army serves as the daytime warming center from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The temporary overnight emergency shelter provides homeless men, women and children with overnight accommodation and accommodation on site until March 31. As of April 1, although the facility will be closed, the organization will continue to provide housing and connections to people with other accommodations until the New Directions shelter reopens.
Bradish plans to save some of the things that would be needed to get the temporary shelter back up and running next winter in case it becomes necessary.
“The theme of TEOSA is’ We care, ‘as Jesus says in Matthew 25:40:’ I am really telling you, whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me. ” Said Bradish. “My mantras are ‘blessed to be a blessing’ and ‘saved to serve’. I get excited when I step into his goodness and see how others are blessed. I know I have to be there and I invite other people to have this experience. “