When I looked around for “real people doing the real thing” in my community, the first person I knew I had to take a peek at more closely was my friend Stacey. Stacey is an ordained minister, licensed pastoral counselor, and certified chaplain. But it’s her tireless work as program director of the Scott County Hospitality House that inspires me most. So I asked her about it.
Take a peek and be inspired yourself.
Let's start with your story. What prompted you to start Hospitality House?
In 2010 I was working as the Family Resource Coordinator at a local elementary school when I became aware that we had homeless children in our school sleeping in their car. Then I began praying about it, and reflecting on the fact that children cannot possibly get a good start in school, or focus on academic work when they don’t know where they will sleep at night. During this time, homeless children and their parents had to go to shelters in nearby cities or other surrounding counties which meant uprooting them from their schools, thus further traumatizing them.
So, after much prayer it became clear to me that this was a moral imperative and that I had to do something to help our local families remain in our own county while assisting them to transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. God had always given me a heart for the poor and a sense of solidarity with their struggles, so as I researched more about their needs, it became clear that I had to do something. Thus the creation of Hospitality House.
This is hard work. Who inspires you?
Though it probably goes without saying, it is certainly the example of Christ that inspires me the most.
Additionally, I grew up on the mission field in North Brasil surrounded by extreme poverty on a daily basis. My parents and other missionaries inspired and taught me the importance of providing dignity to the least of these, so they were my first inspiration in life.
Later, I was strongly influenced by St. Francis of Assissi, Gandhi, and most recently, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I suppose my daily motivation comes from putting myself in their shoes as much as possible, and from my desire to seek Jesus in the faces of those in need. Regardless of how tired or discouraged I get, I always remember that Jesus had a preference for the poor, and that He calls us to do the same.
What do you do in your role with Hospitality House?
First of all, I do a lot of public speaking and networking in the community to raise awareness of the issue (education) and seek resources to meet the needs of others in our community. I really enjoy sharing the needs and helping others “catch the vision” for what God is calling us all to be and do right here at home.
Secondly, I work hard to raise financial, volunteer and in-kind donations so that we can provide emergency shelter at a local hotel, and a transitional shelter for women and children by the end of the year. As the volunteer director, I am working hard to involve most of the churches in our county with Hospitality House so that we can provide support for them by doing the placing and need assessment of those calling for assistance. Up until now local churches have been trying to do this on their own without the expertise they need. That is something we now offer that can be a blessing to them.
Finally, I respond to 8-10 phone calls a day from homeless individuals and families looking for shelter. Many times I cannot help but provide referrals, but when funds are available, I set them up at a local hotel for one or more nights depending on their situation.
What do you consider to be the most important thing you do as a part of this role?
From my perspective, the most important thing I try to do as a part of this role is to incarnate God’s unconditional love for others in the way in which I relate to them and respond to their need. Treating my brothers and sisters with dignity and love is vital to me. Secondly, it is important to me in this role to be their voice by educating the public about the issue of homelessness. So many good people have fallen into this vicious cycle by no fault of their own, just unfortunate circumstances.
Periodically over the next few weeks of Lent, I'm going to be highlighting the work of some folks from my own community, those "real people doing the real thing in the real world." As you read their stories, think about your own community. Who deserves a shout-out? Feel free to send me anything you'd like to share--schmexas(at)gmail(dot)com.