Scott Warden
January 15, 2024 // Diocese

‘Love Them Like God Loves Them’

Scott Warden

St. Henry Parish Partners with M.I.S.F.I.T.S. Ministry to Serve the Homeless in Fort Wayne

The sun had just gone down on this particularly cold and blustery first Sunday in January when, underneath the old Nickel Plate Railroad elevation in downtown Fort Wayne, groups of people began to gather, some carrying backpacks and others carrying blankets in their arms – the sum total of their belongings. That’s life on the streets.

Soon, cars, vans, and trucks began to arrive, backing underneath the overpass, opening trunks and doors, unloading bags of coats, shoes, blankets, and other necessities as the weather turns colder. Tables were quickly set up, and pots of chili and foil pans of hot dogs and other food offerings were laid out on the tables by volunteers from St. Henry Catholic Church. Another winter night of giving food and warmth to the gathered homeless of Fort Wayne on this cold January night was underway.

Days earlier, Pope Francis urged the faithful to do exactly what the volunteers underneath the railroad bridge were doing. “Be close to the people we help,” he said during an audience on Friday, January 5. “Be close.” He said he asks people in confession if they give alms to the poor. When they say they do, he asks, more pointedly, “‘When you give alms, do you look people in the eye, do you touch their hand, or do you throw the money there?’ To touch, to touch poverty, to touch, a heart that touches; look and understand. Do not forget this.”

The weekly event near Freimann Square in downtown Fort Wayne is organized by Pastor Donnie Foster of M.I.S.F.I.T.S. Ministry, and to begin the evening, he gathered everyone in a circle against the cold wind gusting through and began with prayer, inviting everyone to join in, to be thankful and to feel God’s love.

Foster, once homeless himself, has been working this street ministry for 20 years now. Every Sunday night, regardless of the weather, Foster and other volunteers show up to hand out food and clothing, water bottles, and other items desperately needed by the unhoused. Meals are prepared and served by a rotating group of individuals or organizations who sign up to help. On Sunday, January 7, the folks at St. Henry stepped up. Foster called what he does “a hand up, not a hand out.”

This particular evening, as cold as it was, saw a sizable turnout, with about 40 to 50 souls gathered together. Foster told Today’s Catholic that the weather influences the turnout.

“During the winter, it’s a lot shorter,” Foster said. “We get about 50 to 70 during the winter; during the summer, we get about 200, 250 people out here.”

Foster is keenly aware of life on the street, having been there himself. It’s Fosters own knowledge and history of having experienced the saving power of God’s grace that propels him to bring what he calls his M.I.S.F.I.T.S. Ministry to the people, many of whom are where he once was in life, face down and in a bad way. (M.I.S.F.I.T.S. stands for Moving In Spiritual Fellowship Including Those Suffering). Foster and his team have spent 20 years of Sundays bringing sustenance – and hope – to those most in need.

“I call them our precariously housed,” Foster said. “They’re couch-surfing right now, staying in somebody’s garage, or they’ll stay at the Mission, wherever they can go just to stay out of the cold.”

Foster goes on to say what gets provided.

“If their clothes are wet, we usually have dry clothes for them. They get a hot meal – and a spiritual meal, as well.”

In working his ministry, Foster is very active in providing the best help he can to meet each individual’s particular needs.

“I vet them so I know that they aren’t drunk or high,” Foster said, “but if you’ve been in this misery, you know; you come out, give your story, because they listen to you. Everyone here has a story. You listen – listen and love. You listen once with human ears, then you listen with God’s ears. You love them like we know how to love; love them like God loves them. Don’t judge them, don’t criticize them, don’t ask them why … unless they want to talk to you. Doing this has been an amazing blessing for us – not just for them, but for us, as well. It’s been amazing.”

The effects of the M.I.S.F.I.T.S. Ministry can also be seen in its graduates, those who have been helped off the streets and who are now coming back to serve others who are where they once were. A man at the recent Sunday gathering, Mark, told Today’s Catholic that he was living with his wife in their Dodge Durango.

“Me and my wife were sleeping in my Durango, homeless off and on for six years because we had nowhere else to go,” Mark said. “Something just clicked, and we put God first, and we’ve been surviving ever since. We’re no longer homeless. My wife is employed, and I’m working, and we’ve had our own house for four years now.”

Another man, Todd, was also present, and shared that the M.I.S.F.I.T.S. saved him from life on the streets.

“I was going through a violent time in my life,” Todd said. “People were always attacking us, and one day, I was given the number for the M.I.S.F.I.T.S., and I went to that service and never looked back. They saved me,” Todd said, holding back tears. “M.I.S.F.I.T.S. saved me from the streets; they saved me. They saved my life, man. I was out here in the cold.”

It’s why Todd now gives back, partly by showing up to the Sunday events underneath the railroad elevation, so he can give a hand up.

For the homeless gathered, the cold night was a made a little warmer by the volunteers from St. Henry, who made and served hot dogs and chili to eager hands. They also gave out bags of fresh fruit, cookies, and bottled water. Partnering with Donnie Foster and his M.I.S.F.I.T.S. Ministry is a way to live out the message of the Gospel, they said. It gives them a chance to show that the St. Henry is dedicated to bringing the love of Christ to those who may suffer not only from homelessness and hunger, but also from a lack of hope.

Paul Gerardot, Property Manager at St. Henry, began partnering with Foster and his M.I.S.F.I.T.S. Ministry in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to deliver “truckloads of food every week to those in need,” Gerardot said. “Since then, we have become friends, and together, we try to help people of all walks of life with their needs. The presence and help of St. Henry [at the January 7 event] was just one more step in our journey.”

Gerardot said he wanted the St. Henry community – and the Fort Wayne Catholic community as a whole – to become more aware “of the homelessness crisis, and hopefully people will find a value in being kind to one another. The simplest and purest way to do this is just to give them some food. St. Henry is going to do it again and again.”

Gerardot added that he is “blessed to be able to do this, and I ask others to join us in filling the need.”

Foster and all those involved in his ministry, as well as the volunteers in the St. Henry community, certainly would make Pope Francis proud, as they do not just throw money at poverty. They touch it – and are touched by it.

“You give back where your misery was and where your ministry ought to be,” Foster said. “We’ve learned a lot from them. We’ve learned that they’re just like us.”


To learn more about M.I.S.F.I.T.S. Ministry, including how to donate items and sign up to provide a meal at the weekly gatherings, visit

To learn more about the work being done by St. Henry Parish and its community outreach programs, search for St. Henry Thrift Shoppe on Facebook.

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