The temporary shelter at the Sapulpa Elks Lodge on Poplar street started as just a few folks trying to help fill a need that they knew would materialize with the coming winter weather, as Sapulpa was set to receive several inches of snow, and that was after a handful of sub-zero temperature days.
“We were going to open up at this other church when I saw [Jordan’s] post and I called her and said, ‘Why don’t we just come help over there?’” Levi Bradley told Sapulpa Times on Thursday afternoon.
Bradley says that what blossomed was a shelter that not only met the needs of the homeless in the area but provided a helping hand to others in Tulsa, and even families from outside the state.
“We had a family in Montana that was calling to check on someone they knew who was living in a camper,” he said. “She didn’t want to leave because she had pets, but we took her some blankets and made sure she was taken care of.”
Bradley and his crew at Shoulder 2 Shoulder ministries can often be found around town assisting those in need or providing a free outdoor worship service in some parking lot almost every weekend—when the weather permits, that is.
Shoulder 2 Shoulder ministries has been caring for, feeding, and keeping watch over the pop-up shelter since the first Thursday it opened. After spending all day, sometimes until midnight or 1:00 a.m., with the residents, Bradley will get home just in time for a shower and a few hours of sleep before he’s back, usually around 6:00 a.m. He says it’s worth it to hear their stories and know they’re helping.
“It’s amazing what some of these people have been through,” he said. “You’ll see people who you know, that you’ve seen before, walking down the street, yelling at nothing or talking to themselves, and after about day three, something will just click, and they’ll begin to open up to you and talk to you just like anyone else would.”
The shelter has had as many as 28 residents stay the night, with usually about 15 or so being from Sapulpa. Others came from Tulsa as those shelters began to fill up. “And not everyone here is [destitute],” Bradley said. “Some of them have a job and a car, but they’re between houses. Normally, they’ll sleep in their car, but they’ve been coming in here and spending the night and then going out to their job the next day.”
Bradley says even the residents have told him, “This isn’t like other shelters,” because they work to meet a variety of needs they have and don’t run it “like a church camp.”
“For many of these people, it’s the best place they can be. They’re warm. They’re not hungry. They’re sober. We’re helping them with what happens after this is gone. We’re fixing their cars, helping them find jobs. Helping them transition from this to the next thing. Most of these people can’t think beyond their biggest need right now,” Bradley says. “You help meet that, and you can help them move forward.”
For Bradley and the Shoulder 2 Shoulder team, it’s just one part of their overall mission. “We can tell these people that Jesus is the answer all day long, but until you can show them, how are they really going to know?”