Guest Success Stories
From St. Andrew’s guests:
Frank* and his partner Sara* left the Washington, D.C. area after Frank lost his job; prospects in Seattle weren’t much better. After moving to Vancouver, Frank and Sara began attending church together. A member of their congregation would pick them up from the bus stop and drive them to services, then drive them back again. Another person from their church told them about the WHO Program, and they were cleared to enter shelter together on November 1. Frank was always respectful, offering to help other guests and eager to express his gratitude for both the compassionate WHO volunteers and the program’s zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. Sara struggles with a long-term mental health disability, and Frank has become her dedicated advocate. He goes with her to doctor’s appointments at Community Health, and worked with her to find a medication regimen that truly helped her. Through the first four months of the season the two of them saved every cent, and were finally able to put down a deposit on an apartment. Frank talked excitedly about the place they would be moving in to, of buying quilts and groceries and starting to cook again. He has been actively seeking work, looking forward to re-establishing good rental history and perhaps in a year or so moving into an apartment in a nicer part of town.
« « « « « « « « « « » » » » » » » » » »
Mark* was unable to work, and received SSI Disability benefits. His girlfriend Bridgette* had a criminal record from years ago, in a different state, which had made it very difficult for her to find work. For weeks the two of them camped in the woods near the freeway after being kicked out of a family member’s home where they had been staying temporarily. Each day they called the Emergency Shelter Clearinghouse, and finally a space opened up—for one person. Rather than split up they stayed together on the street. Frank continued to call until shelter was available for both of them. While at the WHO, nearly every day he and Bridgette went to the library to follow up on housing leads. In his own words:
“We’ve been here about a month now. I’m just grateful to be here. I was told you have to be out of here for a whole year before you can volunteer, which I would like to do. All the calls I made, I just figured eventually it would pay off, which it did. Not only did it pay off, but we’re going to be getting into our own place pretty soon, so we won’t have to be here. It’s easier to work on those things when you can at least have somewhere warm to sleep. I was freezing every night.
“I feel safe here, it’s not bad. We’ve gone to some of the church services here, some of the classes. I figured both of us could go. We’re within walking distance of the mall, and there’s a library there that we can use. To those others that are out there that need assistance, come to St. Andrews, because this is the best place I’ve seen. There’s something different about it; that’s all I can say.”
From St. Paul’s guests:
Trevor* was much younger than the other gentlemen at St. Paul, and felt quite withdrawn and alone when he first arrived at the shelter. The other guests immediately took him under their wing, showing him the ropes with chores and shelter rules, and in general helping him to open up. It didn’t take too long before Trevor adjusted to his new surroundings, and began working in earnest on his plan for self sufficiency. Stories like this aren’t uncommon at St. Paul. In another example of cooperation and camaraderie among the guests, Steve*, Drew* and Carlos* met in shelter, pooled their resources, and were able to move into an apartment together.
« « « « « « « « « « » » » » » » » » » »
Nate* felt a great deal of shame because of his need for emergency shelter. When he talked about being homeless, it was important to him that he emphasize that it was the only option after all other options had dried up. He wanted nothing more than to be on his own, working and supporting himself. “This is only for the time being,” he would often say. Nate told himself that the other men at St. Paul’s were different than him, that he had little in common with them. He was often quiet, eating his breakfast as he watched the news in the shelter’s hospitality room. Over time he became friends with several of the other guests—learning much as volunteers often do that homelessness can happen to anyone. Nate would share info he found on potential job and housing leads, and encourage others when things seemed beyond hope. He helped to keep the peace when two men started loudly disagreeing in one of the sleeping rooms. While at the WHO he attended classes at Clark College, working towards long-term education goals and his dream of a secure future.
* All names have been changed