He came in on a Thursday. Spring had not yet come into its own. The first part of his time at Father Gene’s Help Center was a fairly standard client shopping experience – browsing racks, selecting some items. He seemed quiet and didn’t ask for much.
The more time he spent here, the more he warmed up. It was little things that seemed to put him at ease – witty banter with another shopper, a gracious volunteer who went above and beyond to find a preferred style of underwear for him. My heart filled with warmth overhearing the laughter and conversations as the lines between client and volunteer seemed to melt away. Our front room store was abuzz and I thought to myself, “this is why we are here. This is why we do what we do.”
It was the coffee that brought our value of hospitality to life. As he sat holding the freshly brewed cup of coffee in his hands, he repeated, “This is awesome. This is awesome. I thought you would tell me to get my clothes and get out, but here you are welcoming me to sit down and offering me a cup of coffee.”
Over a second cup of coffee, he shared his recent struggles. He had slept the previous night behind a garage in the rain. He said he persevered in avoiding the temptation to turn to substances and illicit activities as quick fixes for his current state of homelessness and poverty. He shared that he had not been able to connect with community housing resources that could help him find stability, but that he had tried.
We sat together and called 211 – a community resource network that helps to coordinate shelter and provide referrals. We learned that there was an opportunity that afternoon to apply for a bed at one of the local men’s shelters.
He finished his second cup of coffee with a look of determination on his face. He left the center to get on the bus and head downtown. He took with him a backpack full of new-to-him clothing, dry shoes, and a sense of dignity and hope.
I often wonder how he is doing, if he was able to get into a shelter and from there find a permanent housing solution. I am thankful for the time he spent here, for the opportunity to meet him. I hope that we will continue to be a place of welcome that brings to our mission every day the values of dignity, abundance, hospitality, and compassion.
Jessica Luebbering, Executive Director