One of the volunteers in our Kingston drop in centre wrote this touching story. Having been touched by homelessness herself and hearing about someone else’s plight, her heart was moved with compassion. The reward (and danger) or doing this sort of work is entering into the pain of another. It is costly because it removes us from our comfort zone, but it is rewarding because it what Jesus calls us to do and our compassion brings alive something of what it should mean to be human. Here’s the story”
Last Thursday, my regular nightlight volunteer shift I met Michel (not her real name) for the first time. She is a middle aged woman, neatly dressed, with a shy smile and sat down at our table somewhat hesitantly when invited. Someone offered to get her a coffee but she said she would do it herself. We talked for the better part of the evening. Other guests and volunteers came and sat with us at various times during the evening and joined the conversation.
Michel had just come back to Kingston from Toronto in the last week or so. She is staying at Dawn House which is a local women’s shelter. She is on a fixed income from Ontario Works which affords very little money for housing. She can only stay at Dawn House for a maximum of 6 weeks.
She has family in Kingston where she grew up but she has very strained relationships with most of her siblings. She speaks with one brother and her father who is still living in his own home but he is quite elderly. She does not seem to have any friends in Kingston.
Michel is looking for work but said it is difficult to find. She would probably work in a retail store of some kind which would pay a minimum wage. Affordable housing would then be difficult to find. Kingston Housing has a long waiting list with families with children a priority of course.
At the end of the night one of the other volunteers and I prayed with Michel. I think a little piece of my heart went out into the cold night with Michel. I know from personal experience what it is to be homeless. Technically it didn’t last for a year for me which is one of the criterion for the definition of homeless. I was only homeless for about 5 months. But that was over twenty years ago. Now hearing someone else’s plight makes me feel quite helpless again. We need to find a better way.
On my drive home I found myself thinking about all the people I know who have beautiful homes here in Kingston but come December and January they drive down to Florida for anywhere from two to five months. I found myself plotting and scheming how I could introduce them to Michel and have her stay at their home as “house sitter”.
I tried to figure out how I could bring her to my home how that might work with my brother who lives with me and is quite a loner and used to having the house to himself a lot of the time. I prayed for Michel again that God would make a way.
So I carried Michel around in my heart for a few days. Eventually it eases a bit as I get caught up in my other responsibilities. But I have to go back to nightlight this Thursday to see what has happened with Michel. Inevitably, I won’t see her for a few weeks or more but tonight I will meet ????