Grab a tissue and PLEASE READ it. Today changed my life and reading this will give you ALL. THE. FEELS
Today start ed out much like any other Sunday. My husband and I got up, I wrote out our to-do list for the day, and he loaded up the car.
We headed out on our journey: the UPS store to ship something for the Closet, delivery of a DTCF coupon book for our fundraiser, then off to Akron for a clothing distribution. We do this not all, but most Sundays. And while I almost always look forward to it, today I considered not going. Not because I didn’t want to, but sheerly out of exhaustion. While I listed to Dr. Mary about not lifting anything during the 2 weeks between my surgical procedures, the pacemaker half inside of my body and half hanging out of my back has taken its toll. As you’ve probably picked up on, I’m not one for sitting still, and being post-op didn’t do much to deter me the last 2 weeks (maybe I’ll learn between the next set of surgeries…)
We arrived at the Haven and set up like always (by we, I mean JR. Thanks, babe!) Today’s distribution included coats, scarves, hats, gloves, pants, shoes, snacks and blessing bags. There was quite a crowd out today and for the first time in awhile, some folks were hanging in the park or sitting on benches enjoying the sunshine and *semi* Spring like day.
After a bit a young man came up, late 20’s maybe. He had noticed the cot that we had been donated that another man had taken and asked if we had any tents. He looked forlorn when we told him that was the only one we had and offered him the other things we’d brought with us. He stood for a bit, just kind of hanging around, and after a while I went over to speak with him.
I asked if his tent had been bulldozed during the tent city demolition. He told me it had. I asked his name, which I learned was Westley. And I asked if he would be comfortable sharing his story with me, and me sharing it with you. This led to us speaking for over an hour and a half.
Westley taught me that there are 2 buildings at the Haven of Rest. What I thought was a women’s and a men’s side is actually a homeless shelter and more of a rehabilitation program, if you will (my words, not his. I don’t know how else to describe it). The building where you drive up and drop things off houses a homeless shelter. The folks that take your donations are people that are living across the street and have signed a 12-month commitment to stay there. They are given housing, food and clothing on a work for keep type basis.
The homeless side is much smaller and much different. While the 12-month program side ha
s a more home like feel to it, the homeless shelter is filled with plastic chairs, prison type style meals and whatever left over donations the other side of the program didn’t utilize.
Westley went on to describe yet again what so many others have told me. That in order to receive basic necessities: clothing, toiletries, a meal…the homeless are required to sit through a church service. When he had to leave the chapel to use the restroom last week, an employee followed him in to reprimand him.
There is far too much information to share in this already very lengthy post. But after our conversation ended, Westley cried. He told me he’d tried many times to commit suicide and that recently he felt so lost, like there wasn’t anyone who legitimately wanted to help him. We exchanged numbers and I told him that any time he feels like that to call and I will talk him through it. That I’ve been there too and there is a better day ahead. We discussed how we can work together to help the community he’s living in. And when I left, we hugged harder than I’ve hugged anyone in a long time.
He jolted off with the biggest smile on his face and said “I’ve got things to do now! I’m going to make some calls, I’ve got work for us. I’ll call you at 7:30!”
And this, folks, is why we do what we do. Thank you for your donations. Thank you for leaving things on my doorstep. Thank you for participating in our fundraisers. Thank you for purchasing our t-shirts and masks.
Because of you, Closet of Caring exists. And because of that, I was able to meet Westley. He called it God, I call it fate. Call it whatever you want, but it was no accident I didn’t stay home today.
When you have more than you need, build a longer table. Not a higher fence.