Contact: Toby Owen, Executive Director, 817-632-7440; firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: FIRST EVER CHAPLAIN PROGRAM AT PRESBYTERIAN NIGHT SHELTER
FORT WORTH – Barb Heptig was nervous when she first approached the emergency night shelter that is home to about 544 homeless every night, but she was surprisingly greeted with sighs of relief as she walked through the 23-year-old building. The homeless clients at Presbyterian Night Shelter seek her out and tell her how happy they are to finally see her there.
More than 600 homeless clients will now have regular spiritual support as the Presbyterian Night Shelter introduces its first ever chaplain internship program in collaboration with Brite Divinity School and St. Stephen Presbyterian Church.
The program will focus on meeting all faith needs for those people staying in the Lowdon-Schutts Building for women and children, Safe Haven for the mentally ill and the emergency night shelter through regular visits from the chaplain, Barb Heptig.
Heptig attends weekly resident meetings in the women and children’s building, a weekly volunteer-led Bible study at Safe Haven and spends Monday evenings chatting with clients in the main shelter.
“Right now, I am getting them used to my presence and assessing what their needs might be,” Heptig said. “I live for Monday nights when I get to come and visit.”
The internship began in September and will follow regular semester structure for one academic year. Heptig has committed to act as chaplain for the Shelter through next May. To earn a Master of Divinity for Brite, every student has to complete one year of supervised ministry, which will now include ministering to the homeless at Presbyterian Night Shelter. Heptig will be one year closer to her Master of Divinity degree and her ordination with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“The most important thing I have learned is that there is a tremendous openness to talk about God,” Heptig said.
The Presbyterian Night Shelter Executive Director, Toby Owen has worked with key contacts at Brite Divinity School and St. Stephen Presbyterian Church to organize the internship program. He has recognized the need to provide spiritual support for the clients over the past year he has had with the organization. He said he is looking forward to watching the growing success from the relationships the Heptig has begun.
So far, Heptig has been greeted across the campus with open arms and smiling faces. She said she was nervous when she initiated conversations with clients, but received kind words and relief from people with heavy hearts.
The largest provider of services for the homeless, Presbyterian Night Shelter is the only free area emergency shelter without length-of-stay restrictions. The Shelter believes in respecting the dignity of its clients, while supplying meals, beds and basic human care to an average of 704 homeless men, women and children every night and approximately 3,040 annually.
The Shelter provides hope to its clients and is working to end homelessness. Through counseling, specialized programs and case management provided at each of the four facilities on the 5-acre campus. The Presbyterian Night Shelter is a 25-year-old facility providing meals and sanctuary for the homeless population, including mentally handicapped, veterans, men, women and children.
The Mission: The Presbyterian Night Shelter provides a place of trust, respect and caring for the homeless, helping them regain their quality of life.
About The Brite Divinity School
Brite Divinity School is one of the premier teaching and research institutions in the Southwest. In 1998 Brite began offering a Ph.D. degree in two areas: Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling and Biblical Interpretation. In addition, Brite offers several masters degrees: Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Christian Service, Master of Divinity, and Master of Theology. It is affiliated with Texas Christian University.
About St. Stephen Presbyterian Church
St. Stephen is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the Synod of the Sun and Grace Presbytery located in Fort Worth, Texas, and serves the greater Fort Worth, Arlington and mid-cities areas of the Dallas-Ft.Worth Metroplex.