Metro Ministries has been helping those who need it in the Coastal Bend for more than 37 years. It offers a range of services, for a range of clients including the homeless, the poor, the working poor, the disabled and the elderly. Shelters, food and medical care are just some of those services, and they're all at no cost.
"We want the community to know that the people we serve have met some very difficult paths, and we're here to try and make it smoother," said Metro Ministries Chief Executive Officer Patty Clark. "To try and give them a place to reset, refresh, restart, and to feed, shelter, and build futures for anyone who needs it."
Eleven years ago it opened Rainbow House, a shelter specifically for women and children. Rainbow House encourages its women to go to school or get skills training during the day, and it arranges for children staying in the shelter to get to school if mom is working or in school, Clark said.
"It's a great vibe," Clark said. "You make sure that it's not a hand out. It's a hand up."
The rooms are clean and quiet during the day, and a residential supervisor is on-hand when women and children are in the house. Rainbow House's rooms can sleep two women, or two to four children.
One room is specific to women who have aged out of foster care, so they can focus on their education and not struggling to find a place to live.
"A lot of fosters turn 18 at the beginning of the school year and their obligation to the foster family they're living with is over," Clark said. "So they don't have anywhere to go."
But they don't get a free ride at Rainbow House.
"They have to clean up," Clark said. "They have chores. We always get the comment 'It's so clean.'
"We work hard with you for your success," she said. "We should not be working harder than you want to work for yourself. Bless and release."
Metro Ministries' Vineyard Social service is the screening and intake arm of Metro Ministries' operation, providing clients with case management services; homeless prevention services such as help with rent, utilities and other bills; information and referrals; and clothing referrals or jackets and blankets. It currently has a need for jackets and blankets.
Rustic House is Metro Ministries' mens' shelter, which can house up to 16 men. Those needing someplace to stay have to interview with a case manager, who will clarify the potential resident's expectations and goals.
"We are not an overnight shelter," Clark said. "We're a program for residential change, and so some men are really ready for that and others don't know if they are, so we'll work a couple of weeks on their personal goals and see if this is the right place for them to be. And again, if it's not it's a bless and release. Come back when you are ready and we'll be here for you, and (we'll) help you then."
The Dr. James Gabbard Memorial Health Clinic is a free clinic that is available to anyone in need -- not just its homeless clients. Clark said the clinic serves anyone from moms who bring their kids needing back-to-school physicals to oil-field workers who aren't about to leave work during the way and don't have insurance.
"They'll come here in the evening," she said. "Anyone in the community that's in need. If you don't have insurance, it doesn't matter. We have seniors that are in the Medicare donut hole and can't afford to do anything but come to us right now. You name it, we're going to treat it. Unless it's an emergency."
An eye doctor comes the Gabbard Clinic the first Monday of the month, and thanks to a partnership with Corpus Christi Medical Center-Doctor's Regional Hospital's residents' program, primary-care physicians volunteer their time multiple times a week. The clinic has private exam rooms, a pharmacy and even a dispensary for eyeglasses, as well as a chaplain's office for private conversations.
Like the Gabbard Clinic, the Loaves & Fishes Cafeteria is open Monday-Friday, and available to anyone who needs a meal. It opens at noon for lunch, and at 5 p.m. for dinner, serving 8,000 meals a month. Volunteers keep the line running smoothly.
It has a large commercially equipped kitchen that Metro Ministries uses to provide a complete, nutritious meal for adults and children.
"We make sure to have veggies and fruits on every plate to model a great plate of food, because usually this is the only meal people will get," Clark said.
Clark said oftentimes the general public doesn't understand how someone gets in a situation where they need to rely on organizations such as Metro Ministries for help.
"I say to them 'No parent ever rocked their child and saw homelessness in their future'," she said. "But every person we serve is someone's baby and we always keep that in sight."
Metro Ministries' mission is to get people on their feet, and to keep them from stumbling, even, when possible, "but if this is the best you can ever do, we're going to be here for you," Clark said.