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.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

911 and more.....

Sometimes we have to call the police or an ambulance at Hope House, and it occurs to me that those who work at the church or school (or those who attend daily Mass or school), may wonder what is going on, and why do we need the police here? I can tell you that I can probably count on my two hands the number of times we have had to call, so it is not that frequent an occurrence.

One of our first calls was for an ambulance—we had a gentleman with a seizure disorder who seized, then fell and hit his head on the desk on the way down. By the time the ambulance arrived, he was awake and talking, but they took him to the hospital for observation anyway.

“Maria” was very pregnant and had not eaten yet that day—she was short on food. She fainted while getting the hygiene items and food she so desperately needed. When the ambulance arrived, they found her awake and eating crackers and drinking juice provided by our staff.

“Tammy” was hit by a falling bookshelf that someone had leaned on. That bookshelf is now screwed into the wall! She had a bump on her head, but refused to go to the emergency room and continued shopping!

We have had several instances of clients accusing other clients of stealing from them, some true, some not. One of our elderly clients was robbed of her rent money when it fell out of her pocket—this was witnessed by several clients, and the thief was reported immediately. The police were able to locate the thief and get the money back. In another instance, a mentally ill homeless man was sure that someone was attempting to steal his phone and we called the police to help. They were able to clear it all up for him.

By far the most upsetting calls for me personally are those times when we have someone who is being loud
and verbally abusive. I always plead with them to calm down, stop yelling, and “don’t make me call the police”! This is a level of stress they don’t need in their lives. However, the safety of our staff and clients, the comfort and safety of the school and church inhabitants always comes first, so we have had to call the police perhaps 3-4 times for this reason.

Please understand that these few calls took place over 15 years! 99.9% of the time, Hope House is a very calm and happy place, full of children, laughter and joy. Sitting in my office writing this blog, I hear two women talking about the name brand clothing they had found on the racks, two children playing cars on the floor, and a couple of homeless men planning a trip to Maple Alley Inn together.

This is Hope House—a safe place, a community within a community and a wonderful and shining example of our faith.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sharing the Grace

In our Lenten small faith sharing group last night we discussed the concept of “vertical Eucharist” and “horizontal Eucharist”, vertical being between us and God, horizontal between us and others here on earth. We thought the vertical took place each Mass during the transubstantiation, when God comes to us in physical form as the Body of Christ; and horizontal as the call for us to take that grace received out to our fellow man and share the Word. Working at Hope House feels like doing exactly that!

Until I have a day like today. My morning started before we opened with having to call the police about two men who have been causing repeated trouble here on the church property. Hearing one of them call me a “cold hearted b****” and having the police trespass them from the property for life did not feel like sharing the grace, needless to say. If this had not been the 3rd call to the police about these two, I would never have made the decision to be so stern. I was literally begging the Holy Spirit to help.

Follow that up with a visit from a registered sex offender showing up and having to tell him that he could not be on the property of our church due to the school full of children. Even when I told him to send someone in for what he needed, it felt like I was hoarding the grace and mercy of Christ!

Then came “Kirk”, a longtime client who is very fragile mentally, emotionally and physically. Over the years, we have helped him with many things, boosted his spirits and even talked him through a possible suicidal episode.  Today he came in with plans to move to Texas where he has family, and a card of thanks  to Hope House for years of assistance and support. We wish him well in his new life with his loved ones.

On Monday, TJ, another client we have been working with, came up to me to let me know he has 35 days clean and sober. When I gave him a hug, he said “thanks to Hope House for being here for me”. He is a delightful young man when his demons are not driving him.

“Mary” and her two little boys are weeding, edging and planting our front flower beds for us, because, as she says “Hope House has helped us so much, we want to give back”.

So there is an upside to horizontal sharing of the Body of Christ with the Body of Christ!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

About us....

Please take a couple of minutes to watch this video about Hope House and see some of our cutest clients! God bless...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Servants Song

“Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too”

While we (the staff of Hope House) usually are focused on how we may serve our clients, often we are moved by the simple kindness they share with us as well. Sally brings in a handful of wildflowers to brighten our desk; John offers a box of donuts he received from a local bakery; Irina shyly hands us a box of homemade cookies at Christmas. This is in addition to the kindnesses they share with each other: rides home, offers of babysitting while someone shops, and sharing of resources in the community.

“We are pilgrims on the journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load”

The hardest part of our intake process is sitting with those (usually men) who are embarrassed and ashamed about needing help. They stress this is temporary and swear to help when they are back on their feet. This is when I tell them about the “circle of life” and how we are all going to make it if we work together and help each other. Sometimes you give and sometimes you receive—that is how life works.

“I will hold the Christ light for you
In the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear.”

Local agencies send clients to us with these instructions about how to find us: “the big white house with the red door”. This white house and red door are old, the furnishings shabby and the rooms are crowded, but our clients (actually, our family members!) will tell you this is a home. A safe place, a hangout space where all are welcome and everyone feels accepted for who they are and where they are. It is truly a community holding out its hand to those who need someplace to belong.

“I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.”

Our greatest joy at Hope House is hearing a client come in and proclaim that they have: found a job, obtained housing for their family or that their child is excelling at school, or they have a new precious baby or grandchild. Conversely, we also weep with those who have lost a loved one, their job or their housing, or have found out they have a serious illness. We share the mountains and the valleys of all our family members with love and compassion.

Hope House is a special place and I am honored to be part of it.