What goes into running a homeless shelter? For most of us, the day-to-day operations and challenges of managing such an important community resource go unseen. At the heart of Interfaith Community PADS (ICPADS), a great deal of responsibility falls on the shoulders of our Director, Harrison Holtkamp.
From administration to hands-on work, his dedication and commitment to the shelter keep it running smoothly and efficiently. Harrison’s typical day is filled with endless responsibilities, each vital to the well-being and safety of our guests.
In this interview with Harrison, we invite you to learn about what a day is like for him and understand the passion and hard work that goes into running our shelter. Make sure to read until the end, where you’ll discover ways you can personally contribute to lighten the workload and be a part of something meaningful.
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10)
What responsibilities do you have as Director of the ICPADS homeless shelter?
Every aspect, from administration to operations, falls onto my plate. Nothing is beneath me. Things like:
- The way the building looks outside to the way everything mechanical works inside.
- Working with our insurance agent to make sure that everything we do is covered and in compliance.
- Working with grantors to find ways to fund a project.
- Working with local food pantries to see if we or they have items that could be shared.
- Making sure that the building is maintained and in compliance with the fire department and local board of health.
- Finding ways to fundraise and working with community partners to help our guests.
- Helping local agencies and business owners assist individuals who would rather remain unsheltered.
- Finding quality, understanding staff and volunteers.
- Helping those experiencing homelessness (this is not last because it’s least; it’s because no matter how large my daily list is, everything we do is to help those experiencing homelessness.)
What is a typical day like for you?
- By 5am I am speaking with staff about any issues that occurred overnight.
- I take my wife to work by 7am, and I meet up with my walking partner to walk Franklin Square.
- I am in the office around 8 am, and in a perfect world, I would read over the three newspapers (Herald Dispatch, NWI Times, South Bend Tribune) before starting to answer emails.
- By 9am I am touring the building and creating a punch list for morning staff members.
- During the day, I am fielding phone calls, attending local meetings (Zoom or in person), receiving donations, attending case management meetings, contacting fill-in volunteers for open shifts, planning meals for the evening, and sitting down with clients who need a little extra one-on-one.
- At 2:30pm our courier arrives with the hospital donation and our meal for the evening, or a plan for a meal is created.
- I leave at 3:30pm to pick up my wife from work and return to the shelter to help set up and meet with staff and volunteers for the opening shift.
- At some point during the day, I try to get to our P.O. Box, create a deposit, send out video thank you’s, and stop by the bank.
- If I’m home by 6pm, it’s a good day.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love the personal interactions with anyone. To be able to explain our mission to a group of individuals is rewarding. In the same breath, to be able to enter a hostile meeting and explain our mission and how we all work together and find a coexisting happy medium is just as rewarding. I really love talking to and helping people.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Without hesitation, exiting guests. We work very hard to help our guests find the ways and means to get back on their feet. Many times we look sideways at the actions or reactions of our guests, understanding that we are not walking in their shoes and it is difficult to change. But there are times when the rules that have been constantly broken are damaging the program or when guests’ actions go too far.
I know that we are the only emergency shelter in the county, and that is a lot of pressure on us to continue to try to help those whose behavior is leading them to have every bridge burned. You have heard me say this before, but my staff gets very upset with me when I allow a past guest who has been exited from our program another chance. My thought is maybe this time they can understand what’s expected, and we can find the proper avenue for them. And with staff, I hope that it’s building more patience than frustrations.
How can the community/individuals support you in your work?
Tell your friends, family, or church members about the good work that we do. Volunteer in our program. Donate goods or funds to support our mission. Keep us in your prayers.
Also, here is a list of volunteer duties that would help to free parts of my day.
- Donation organizer
- Daytime meal prep
I want to thank everyone for helping me do the job that I love.
Join Our Mission
Harrison’s passion and dedication are the lifeblood of ICPADS, but he doesn’t have to shoulder the responsibility alone. Whether through volunteering, donating goods, making a monetary donation, or even just sharing our mission, your support can make a profound difference. Together, we can continue to uplift and help those experiencing homelessness in our community. Thank you for being a part of our journey.