As one would expect, our work at Catholic Worker Hospitality House can often be depressing. We serve so many people at our dining room and shelter who have been homeless for years with little hope of finding permanent and decent housing. But last week I experienced a ray of sunshine when I was able to help Barry move into his own apartment.
Barry has been a guest at our dining room and homeless shelter for close to five years. While he is a nice guy, health issues have prevented him from maintaining steady work. I enjoyed seeing him everyday, but it saddened me that he seemed destined to spend the rest of his life living on the streets and in shelters. In 2019 and early 2020 Barry stayed at the shelter multiple times, totalling at least five months worth of time with us. This is highly unusual for us. We will give folks two weeks to a month to stay at the shelter maybe two or three times a year, but rarely do we give someone as much time as we gave Barry. We initially kept bringing him back into the shelter because he was a good guest. Then we extended his stay several times while he was working with outreach workers to get a voucher for permanent supportive housing.
His housing voucher came through the San Mateo County Department of Housing which several years ago started a program focused on providing permanent long-term affordable housing for chronically homeless individuals. Outreach workers from Lifemoves, a non-profit serving the homeless, shepherd folks through the vetting process to receive a housing voucher. Then Abode Housing Service works with the individual to find an apartment. It’s amazing. People who I thought would never get housing have found a home and stayed in it with the help of wraparound services provided by Lifemoves outreach workers and health care providers.
In our letters I usually play up our role in providing services to our guests. But in the above-mentioned process of arranging and finding permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals in our community we play a minor role. The folks at Lifemoves and Abode Housing Services do all the heavy lifting.
However, we do assist the process in a variety of small ways. Our dining room is a place where outreach workers can make initial contact with potential clients. We also make a room available as needed for the outreach workers to meet with clients during and after our regular service hours to fill out and complete paper work. Once a person is working with outreach workers we will provide extended shelter stays so they get stabilized and are available for meetings. And finally, once the person gets his apartment we assist in furnishing it.
Last Wednesday, Bruce told me he finally had the keys to his new apartment, but had nothing in it but a bed. I told him to meet me at our Second Avenue house the next morning and we would get his apartment furnished. At the Second Avenue house, we loaded up food, towels, bedding, and kitchen items into my truck. Then went to our Chapman house to pick up a dresser, chairs, TV stand, and more kitchen items. After taking that load to his apartment we went shopping at the South San Francisco St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop to get a dining table, coffee table, end tables, and sofa. On the way to his apartment we stopped at an area Target to get the remaining cleaning and kitchen items he needed. By the end of the day he had everything he needed for his apartment.
When I left Bruce’s apartment that afternoon after unloading the last load of supplies he had a stunned but happy look on his face. “I can’t believe I have my own place,” Bruce told me. He thanked me and the folks at Lifemoves and Abode Housing Services effusively for helping him get his new home. I congratulated him on his perseverance. “You did a great job of sticking with the process, especially when it got frustrating. Good things happen when you work hard and follow through with things. Keep up the good work. We’ll be there to assist you as needed.”
We are able to be that ongoing support to those in need in our community because of all the support we receive from you, our faithful supporters. Whether it is food, household items, or financial assistance you enable us to continue feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and furnishing apartments of the newly housed. Thank you!
In Christ’s Peace,
Catholic Worker Hospitality House