Last week my mother celebrated her 90th birthday! Amidst the festivities and the visiting family there were many conversations around our kitchen table. My mother reminisced about the good times and the tough times. I never grow tired of listening to the stories of how she, one of ten children, grew up during the Depression. With the passing of time the stories of hunger, shoes stuffed with cardboard, coats that served double duty as blankets, and the weight of an uncertain future are told with humor and the pride that comes with surviving and overcoming adversity. I have heard these stories my whole life and the example of my grandparents and parents lives in my work and in the values we at St. Francis House hold dear.
I learned that difficult times could happen to anyone and happen to everyone. The loss of a job, an injury or illness, fire, the death of a spouse, the ending of a marriage…these are the misfortunes that cause us to turn to others for help. I know how difficult asking for help can be; the toll it takes on the physical being is only outweighed by the toll it takes on the emotional self. With humility and gratitude we turn to our family and friends to bridge us through the difficulties of our life.
Our guests have suffered loss upon loss, and unlike my family, the safety net — whether extended family, friends, or social services — has not been there for them. That’s where St. Francis House comes in. For those guests who teeter on the edge of homelessness, we provide the daily hot meals, clean clothes, case management, and other services that help keep a roof over their heads. And for the men and women who sleep in shelters or on the streets, we provide those same things — always with the goal of helping them find a permanent home.
But until they do, St. Francis House is that home and our basic services of food and clothing are the heart and soul of this place. Here, you always know where your next meal is coming from, and that meal is nutritious, tasty, unrushed, and enjoyed in the company of others. Here, you can come weekly for a fresh set of clothes and are waited on by one of our volunteers who will present several options. That may not sound like a big deal, until you consider how little choice our guests have in their lives. Here, our guests experience the unconditional love and acceptance denied them by the circumstances of their lives.
As I sit around the table in our dining room and listen to the stories of the men and women who come to St. Francis House, I hear how they judge themselves more harshly than anyone else ever would. And that shame takes its toll — on their physical and mental health, their sense of self, and their ability to imagine a better future. Thanks to you, St. Francis House is the bridge that helps them cope with the difficulties of their lives. Because of you we provide the help they need so that one day, like my parents, they will tell their children with pride how they survived and overcame adversity. Thank you for helping make these transformations possible.