Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Road Home - A family shelter

For over 5 years, whilst living and working in Salt Lake City, Utah, I spent my Sunday afternoons volunteering in the computer lab at The Road Home - a family shelter. It is a homeless shelter that provides shelter to the homeless families affected by the one paycheck syndrome - that is the syndrome that means that a large percentage of the population are one or two paychecks away from being homeless.

Volunteering at the shelter was rewarding, humbling and an eye-opening experience. I learned much about people, how to treat them, how not to judge them and how to help them.

The Executive Director became a friend to me, as did many of the staff, as I volunteered over the holidays, taking food to shut-ins, serving meals to homeless, serving as a table captain at the annual fundraiser etc. The shelter director is a soft spoken man by the name of Matt Minkevitch. I first met him when following up on a complaint from an individual who called the mayor's office where I was a constituent liaison, to allege that he had been mistreated. A quick phone call to Matt and a personal guided tour was promptly arranged, along with attendance at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for affordable housing units located in close proximity to the shelter. I immediately carved out time in my schedule to volunteer weekly and grew to love this place - The Road Home.

I have been handing out money to homeless individuals for as long as I can remember - dating back to 25 years ago when living in Frankfurt Germany. Sometimes, I would purchase a meal, other times I would hand over cash. Matt would remind me of the folly of my ways - knowing that it is not the best solution for a homeless person, but I would always feel guilty about being able to afford a $50 dinner tab and not give a homeless person $5 for a meal or a bottle of beer - I never worried about where the money was going - I operate on a different level - there but for the grace of God go I - maybe it is because I read a sermon given by a man by the name of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon - an LDS book of scripture - this king allegedly lived in the Americas and was holding a mass meeting for his religious followers. He spoke of the homeless, downtrodden and the less fortunate - he said that our job was not to judge, nor to say that we would stay our hand because people had brought the misery of (homelessness) upon themselves - rather we were to give because - and I paraphrase - there but for the grace of God go I.

I have recently met two homeless women - between jobs, one living out of her car, the other living in a motel room - both trying desperately to find a place to land - a home - something of their own. They are not included in the homeless statistics as they are flying below the proverbial radar.

Please find time to donate to a charity or church of your choice this season, indeed, throughout the year - there is always a need - if you do not have money, donate time or goods. Trust me, you will be blessed for it.

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