Today was the last day of the whirlwind that is my Volunteer Odyssey. My final stop for the week was at the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality. Every week the shelter hosts “Sundays at Six”, where volunteers and families living in the facility meet for an hour of fellowship, plus dessert. I ate two.
Around 6pm the families made their way to the living room for prayer before we cut into the brownies. As we waited for the children to file down in their pajamas, I looked at the photographs hanging on the wall in the dining room. These families came in all shapes and sizes, with the common denominator of having called the Dorothy Day House home at one point in time. There were over 30 photographs hanging on the wall.
The mission of the Dorothy Day House is to keep homeless families together. Families that remain together have a much better chance of rebuilding their lives after the distress of losing their home. Sister Maureen told me in Memphis, there are limited options for families that want to stay together. One shelter hosts adult males, one shelter hosts women. This means during the toughest times, husband and wives are separated. It got worse as Sister Maureen continued. The shelter for men is for individuals 18 and older, and in many cases, the shelters for women stop housing males over the age of 6. That leaves a huge gap of homeless individuals not being served under these regulations. As a result, many families stay in their cars to avoid being separated. The local shelters know of the Dorothy Day house, and try to refer families who are in need for this service as much as possible. That being said, the house has room for three families, and their stays range from three weeks to one year. There is no waiting list; it’s all first come first serve. The program is run entirely on private donations, allowing the house to create a unique atmosphere to fit their vision.
After the group prayer, I had the chance to visit with some of the families staying at the house. Their stories varied, as homelessness does not discriminate. We talked about their backgrounds, where the kids attended school, and their future plans. Sitting in the dining room over a cup of coffee, there was a sense of community, not hopelessness or despair as you might associate with a homeless shelter. The Dorothy Day House does an outstanding job of encouraging these families to make it their home during their time there.
This final stop on my Volunteer Odyssey not only left me thankful for the blessings I have in my life, it also made me thankful for the programs and people I encountered this week spreading kindness in Memphis.
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