BENEFITING: MUSTARD SEED
Winter Emergency for Cheyenne River Homeless Bitter winters on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation place lives of homeless people in great jeopardy. Last year Kenny Gabe froze to death, alone in the snow, after being turned away from a tribal shelter because he had been drinking. After his death, The Mustard Seed soup kitchen opened its doors for frigid weather, with food through the night. The homeless flocked to it. It was jammed but happy—a “pajama party” for the forgotten. Our small concrete block building, loaned by the Cheyenne River Telephone Authority, lacks toilets and running water, so we transported guests to facilities in the park. However, because of physical inadequacies, we were abruptly ordered to halt overnight sleeping. Tribal government quickly opened a single people’s shelter. It operated unhappily through March, and again, grudgingly, this winter. It requires daytime applications, bars those who have been drinking, and treats “our people” as detainees. Street people stick together, and will not go where they or their brothers are unwanted. In three years of operation, The Mustard Seed has developed a warm, respectful relationship with our guests, with only one rule: “Come as you are, as long as you respect others.” All are worthy of respect and kindness, and any heated space is better than an abandoned car or clump of trees. We seek to serve those who fall through the cracks of formal systems, and only want to be a safe haven of last resort. We lack the human or financial resources to operate a permanent shelter with all the physical and operational requirements that entails. Long-term, we have ideas for winter safety but, this year, we need to rent a place that will allow sleeping. Otherwise, Law Enforcement must once again become the sole “caregiver.” Placing safety above civil rights, they sweep the town on frigid nights, hauling vulnerable people to jail. Street people hate this and hide. They are particularly afraid since one died in custody this year. The Mustard Seed is a “shoestring” outfit and a fledgling 501(c)(3) nonprofit. A few volunteers serve hot meals twice weekly to 50-100 people--homeless and others from the community who need food or companionship. We also distribute sack meals to the homeless where they are; food boxes to needy families; donated household goods to extremely poor families, including those who have lost homes to fires; and emergency home or vehicle fuel assistance. We cook at the church or at home. Most of our food comes from the Feeding South Dakota food bank 90 miles away. We must buy foods they do not have, and pay for utilities and insurance. Our financial resources are limited and sporadic—modest donations from the UCC and other churches, the City of Eagle Butte, and a few individuals. Costs are often paid from volunteer pockets. We are non-sectarian and do not allow proselytizing. Your donation will save lives now! Thank you.