North Side ministry serves homeless community by going outside

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CHICAGO — It’s estimated that more than 1200 people experiencing homelessness are still in the streets of Chicago. Shelters are packed as people turn to them for food and protective supplies.

One ministry found a different approach to help the hundreds struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inside Mt. Olive Church on Chicago’s North Side, prayer and fellowship unite people every week. For years people struggling with homelessness have turned to Timothy’s Ministry. It was founded by Marion Alvarado after her son Timothy died when he was hit by a car in 2000.

“Time actually reached out to the homeless in high school,” Alvarado said.

She remembered that after his death and it’s been her mission ever since. So much so that not even the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing her down.

“We knew we could not gather inside. I knew it wasn’t safe,” she said.

But the group is still singing in prayer. They’re just using a much different home.

“As I was praying, I thought we could use that huge parking lot around the perimeter,” Alvarado said.

Friday will be their fourth Friday meeting in the parking lot. They had a 75 person turn out the last time with many afraid to turn to traditional shelters.

“They said it’s dangerous and everybody is pushing up next to you,” she said. “It is scary out there.”

They are practicing social distancing will go up one at a time to grab their bag of food. They’ve managed to keep the ministry going during one of the most challenging times.

“I mean we have to raise our voices a little bit more but yes people can have conversations,” she said. “There’s chairs placed all over the parking lot.”

The bags they’ve been handing out include masks, toilet paper, sandwiches and gift cards to local fast food restaurants. Alvarado said they could use donations of protective gear like masks and gloves.

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