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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Room at the inn

Despite opposition, church opens gym as overnight shelter

Forty-five fewer homeless men had to sleep in doorways to escape Chicago's winter this year. And when Ebenezer Lutheran Church overcame neighborhood opposition and political paralysis to open its gymnasium to those 45 souls, it marked a victory for spiritual hospitality.

The overnight "warming center" was supposed to open Dec. 1, but a loud, last-minute campaign by residents blocked its start.

The protests transformed politicians from allies to opponents, and the city of Chicago --which invested $12,000 to upgrade Ebenezer's gym--backed off from providing the operating funds.

Ebenezer didn't give up. The church canvassed the neighborhood to ascertain public opinion and generate support. It committed $1,000 to opening the shelter and received another $9,000 from the Edgewater Community Religious Association, which had been involved in putting the shelter at the church. The money assured the shelter would open for February and March--the last two months of Chicago's warming center season.


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