In 2021, Living Waters Ministry began its journey of serving the unhoused population in Springfield, Ohio. A ministry of High Street United Methodist Church in the Western Lakes District, this outreach provides showers and, most recently, laundry service. It is an extension of the weekly community meals served at Central Community Center, housed at High Street UMC.

After seeing the unhoused living in a tent city day after day, the Rev. Cynthia Atwater saw a way to serve this population beyond feeding. “A shower is very basic,” she said. “It’s giving dignity, and that is free.” Atwater began strategizing to create a ministry allowing attendees of the community meals to make an appointment to take a shower the following day. Later, the ministry began laundering shower clients’ clothing.

High Street UMC, which will celebrate 175 years in ministry in April, serves about 150 people, mostly families, at their weekly community meal. The community meals provide a “meet-and-greet “opportunity. Some guests eat at the center, while others take their food with them. When they return for showers, the time presents an opportunity to have more intimate conversations to get to know the clients better.

While serving at the shower ministry, Atwater learned of a need to assist securing important legal documents, such as social security and state identification cards. One day, she encountered a man with a torn meniscus (knee-tissue tear). She remembered, “He kept his knee limber by riding his bike everywhere.” This man had hoped to get a job in the summer, but someone stole his bag containing legal documents. Atwater and the church helped replace his birth certificate, social security card and other documents.

This inspired Atwater to begin planning a ministry called, “The Thomas Initiative.” The effort would help clients secure social security cards, state IDs and other documentation to help them find employment.

The Thomas Initiative honors a client, Thomas, who was born in Spain and came to the U.S. to live in Springfield with his mother and stepfather. As a result of an unhealthy home life, Thomas found himself on his own, cut off from his family. Later, a house fire destroyed his legal documents.

“Our ministry assisted Thomas to secure his birth document from a hospital in Spain,” Atwater said, “which led to getting his social security card, state identification card and education documents.” Bilingual, Thomas hopes to become an educator.

This initiative can be a pathway for unhoused residents in Springfield who seek to work and live independently. “If you don’t have these documents, you can’t get anything,” Atwater said. “We hope to help people to get the missing pieces of their life to move in a positive direction.”

If you are interested in supporting this ministry or learning more, contact Atwater at To follow High Street on social media, click here.

Written by Amy Graham, Freelance Writer for the West Ohio Conference of the UMC