Friday, February 5, 2016

Please pray for one of our family

She is a small, quiet woman with a big smile and a friendly and gracious heart. Fridays are her preferred shopping day at Hope House, and she arrives early, rain or shine, to be one of the first in line. We open at noon and she is often on our front porch by 8am, sitting quietly with a good book or chatting with those others who have begun to come and join her for a Friday morning social time. Rules are important to “Sally”, and she polices the crowd that gathers closer to our open hours, making sure everyone knows their place in line and there is no cutting in line with Sally around! I have jokingly told her I am going to put her to work as a personal shopper for others, since she is so good at finding what they need and what would look good on them. Sally cares about others, shares her kindness and sweetness at will and is well loved here at Hope House. The occasional gift of her Asian food is a real treat to those who love sushi. Sally is a big part of our Hope House family, a beloved grandmother to many of our clients and a shining star in our universe.

My Fridays are marked by opening that front door at noon to Sally’s smiling face, helping to make the chaos of Friday more bearable. Two days ago, Sally was struck by a car while crossing a nearby street in the evening. She has suffered massive injuries and is in critical condition at the local hospital. My Friday is not the same, everything seems “off” and many of our staff and clients are distraught at the news. We are heartily praying for her and hope more than anything to see her smiling face at our door again in the future.

 Please pray for Sally.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's all about family

It’s a busy day for a Tuesday here at Hope House—a sign of the holidays fast approaching. I have been trying all morning to get a few minutes in front of my computer to write this blog, and here I am, 2 hours after I planned on doing it! Read on to see why this blog was important for me to put out there.

On a busy, standing room only day last week, with the front door staying open to handle the overflow of people, I came out to get my next client for intake and discovered it was “Jim”, a familiar face. Jim has advanced Parkinson’s and has a great amount of difficulty standing, walking and doing most anything, due to the constant tremors and jerking of his body. As I called his name, I found him in a chair by the window and after struggling for a minute, he asked me to go on to someone else while he tried to get his body to work. He often does this, and is usually able to come in  just a few minutes later. Sure enough, 3 clients later, he waved and indicated he was ready for the struggle. As I helped him to his feet, several other clients also reached out with assistance and cleared a path for him.

So I was already tearing up over this situation, but get this—when I asked him if he had a walker or something to help him walk, he stated it was outside because he didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. I immediately shouted to the people on the porch and the stairs and asked if there was a walker out there. Before the words were out of my mouth, it was being passed overhead from hand to hand to Jim. Helping hands, clearing a path, bringing in his walker—our clients (no, they really are family members for us at Hope House) reached out with kindness to this elderly and frail man. I love our “family” here at Hope House. Whatever the dictionary says a family is—we have a new meaning here at Hope House.

You may think we are giving to our clients, but I can tell you, they give to us as well!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Counting my blessings.

It’s cold and gray outside today—the kind of northwest chill that goes to your bones. Though I am wearing a long sleeved shirt (it’s Seahawk Friday, so it is a Hawk shirt!), I am still chilled and just cannot get warm. All I really want is to be home in my warm and cozy living room with an afghan, a cup of tea and good book. The home my husband and I have created is a refuge and the center of our family life, and I love being there.

So as I shiver once again and grab my cooling cup of coffee, I head out to the waiting room to refill it. There I find people chatting about their tattoos, reading books to their children and just enjoying being in a warm, safe place. The coffee flows, the cookies and bananas are eaten and needs are met. We are passing out coats, hats, gloves and blankets at a dizzying pace. This is Hope House on an ordinary Friday afternoon in fall—a community of people, both helpers and those being helped, all hanging out together for a couple of hours.

While this warms my heart, I am acutely aware of the fact that many of our clients have no warm beds, no warm home, and no way to stay dry tonight—for them, it will be a long weekend. Even those of our clients who are in housing of some kind, often have little money to keep the heat on very long at this time of year. Everyone who comes in is cold and asking for blankets.

So what do we need? We need anything, clothing or blankets, that will help our clients keep warm. We need more emergency housing for families who are homeless. We need to help each other in this life. We need to always remember to count our blessings!

My husband, my children, my grandchildren, my home, my church, my friends……..

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The gift of community

She had no English, we had no Spanish—we were all frustrated in this interaction. While most days we have at least one staff person who speaks Spanish on duty, today we did not. My Spanish is limited, no matter how hard I try to improve upon it. I actually provide comic relief to my Latino clients on a regular basis!

At any rate, back to the story….our client needed help with her electric bill—her power had been turned off and between us, her, the power company—the communication was garbled at best.  I resorted to looking for a client who could help with translation and found one right away. This client was a longtime client who had come in with a friend to help her sign up for assistance. She immediately responded to my request for help and sat down next to the client needing energy help, and started translating for us.

Thanks to this client, we were able to help get the lights back on for this family. But the story doesn’t stop there—our translator and her friend took this Latina client under their wing, offering her a ride to the Power Company and then home with the goods she received from Hope House that day. A friendship was born—a circle of sharing was formed.

This is the gift we did not anticipate when we started Hope House 15 years ago (15 years—can you believe it!?). The gift of community that is the Hope House experience has no measurable outcomes to show grantors and donors, but the gift is very real to those who feel left out of the world sometimes. This is a place of belonging and acceptance where those who are marginalized out there find peace.

I think this was the gift God meant for Hope House to be all along!

Friday, July 24, 2015

We are family...

As I sit here in my office on this busy Friday afternoon, I hear the sounds of children playing, parents chatting, and laughter and gentle teasing. It sounds like a living room full of family—which it is! Our clients feel like this is a safe and warm place to come, to chat, and to have a cup of coffee and share stories and resources. In the summer, it is extra noisy because the kids are all out of school, hanging with their moms, looking through books and coloring at our coloring table. We love it!

This has been a busy summer, and this month has been particularly busy. We have had trouble keeping hygiene and cleaning supplies in stock. Yesterday, our three favorite items, (toilet paper, laundry detergent and dish soap) were completely depleted when we opened. As I did intake, I cringed each time someone said they needed one of these items, knowing they would have to settle for something else. Then, part way through the morning, as I stopped back in the kitchen for a coffee refill, I realized there was an odd assortment of all of these items on the shelf. The staff member in the kitchen told me that people had been bringing them all morning, 2 and 3 at a time, and she hadn’t run out yet!

This may seem strange to some, but I just chuckled, because this was just the most important member of our Hope House family at work, taking care of us. I like to picture Him in his carpenter mode, carrying an armful of supplies to us, while His Mother and Mother Theresa look on approvingly! I have no doubt that our modest little ministry here in the far corner of the Northwest is very much on their radar, because we have had too many examples of direct divine intervention over the years—we call them “Godshots”. On our wall you will find this saying “I work on the assumption that if you are doing God’s work, it is God’s business to take care of you”.  At Hope House, He certainly does!

We’re collecting school supplies…….hhmmmmm………Jesus?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Don't make me stop this car!

This is a blog I wrote in 2012 and seeing the client I wrote about recently reminded me of this piece--I think it bears a repeat performance! 
Sometimes God just reaches down and slaps me upside the head. Now, if this statement makes you wince, stick with me and trust that I know what I’m talking about! He’s not making me wait until I see Him in the afterlife to keep me in line, He just keeps teaching me here on earth as I go along my very imperfect, human way.
So what prompted this slap, you may ask? Well, here, to my shame, is my story. Keep in mind that the first thing we do at Hope House before we open every day is pray for kindness, patience and compassion to shine from each of us (this is where I got in trouble).
So the story starts earlier last week, when “Tommy” came in to Hope House looking for help paying his rent to some friends who were letting him crash at their house. Tommy is a regular client, is usually homeless and often slightly inebriated when he visits us. Let’s just say he is one of our more challenging clients. When we explained we don’t help pay rent, he became very upset and yelled about how no one cares about him, etc., etc…….then he left after getting a bag of food.
The very next day, Tommy stopped in to let loose with a loud verbal outburst about how it is our fault he is homeless, and he hates the Catholic Church and us especially. After yelling this at me, he left the room and then came back in to ask for some clothing, which we of course gave him.
Flash forward to a busy Friday afternoon—lots of people at Hope House for assistance, so many that they were spilled out onto the lawn waiting their turns. We were doing double intake duties to keep up, so when I came out and saw Tommy’s name was next, I just sighed. It had been a long week with Tommy, and I was not in the mood for him at all. I called his name, looked around—no Tommy. Someone said he might be outside, so I went out and called again—no Tommy. I came back inside, smiling in relief that I didn’t have to deal with him again. Just then, someone said “there’s Tommy out there with his bike”. So I again went outside, hoping he was heading out and didn’t want to come in again. When I called out to him, I asked him if he still needed to check in. he immediately said yes and almost ran into the building, with me and my poor attitude following. Upon getting into the privacy of the intake room, Tommy told me he didn’t need anything, he just came by to tell me he was sorry for his behavior all week.
SLAP!! That sound you hear is God asking me if I really mean what I say when I pray each day, or am I just being a Pharisee. You see, it didn’t matter if I let Tommy or anyone else know how much I did not want to help him—what mattered was my inner impatience and lack of compassion for this fellow human being. What mattered was my commitment to Christ to treat each and every one of the parts of His body as I would treat Him.  This is the whole focus of Hope House, and it is what makes us special.
SLAP! That’s God saying “don’t make me stop this car!”

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Of lamps and crayons....

I LOVE my job! I know I say this a lot, but it always bears repeating and the main reason I love this job is that God is my partner here every single day. Today a man living in his RV at a local RV park came in needing only two main things: a lamp to read by at night and a small radio to block out other campers noise while he tried to sleep. As I flinched, thinking that we seldom have these items and not for very long if we do get them, I hoped we could find something else he might need to make up for it. So imagine my surprise when I took him back to the household area and we discovered a gooseneck lamp and a small radio on the shelf! That’s a God Shot if I ever saw one, and I see them quite frequently here at Hope House. That man left feeling very satisfied with his day!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a caregiver type person. In my previous life (before Hope House) I was a nurse, because I love to take care of people. My job here provides numerous opportunities to reach out with more than just tangible items; often the chance to chat, brainstorm or just listen to my clients is so fulfilling. It helps to have racks full of resource material, colleagues in various agencies around town and our very own Theresa Meurs (Hope House volunteer, and now a housing specialist for the Opportunity Council) on call. One of our clients who is a very special concern to me and now to Theresa as well, is a homeless 55 year old with mental health issues who seems fragile and lost. We are working quite diligently to get him in housing, hopefully supportive. I spent 20 minutes today listening to him talk about his younger life and his dreams and ambitions to be an architect.

It was a day for talking—everyone had a need to share or have someone hear their story. One of the early clients was a homeless man whose identification had been stolen (a common disaster!), who wasn’t sure how to go about getting a new one. Assumption Financial Assistance was able to help him with that. Another woman needed to vent about her problems with the government of Canada and her veteran’s status and the help the VA was getting for her.

In amongst all of this were the children, everything from a newborn to a 6 year old coloring one of our coloring pages. We handed out fruit snacks, crayons and hugs with abandon! Precious little faces and grins…..

I’ll say it again—I have the best job in the world.