By Stacy Hakanson | For the past three years, I have been one of many volunteers working to bring an emergency shelter program for families experiencing homelessness to Scott and Carver counties. Our goal was realized two weeks ago, on Mother’s Day, 2014, with the opening of Families Moving Forward-Southwest. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to see this program in action immediately through volunteering at the program center during the first week.
The program opened at full capacity, serving 16 people who made up three families. Twelve of these were children. I got to meet all of our guests the very first morning after the first night of shelter in the program. They had wonderful things to say about their first night at Hope Lutheran Church in Jordan. They were treated to a special meal in honor of Mother’s Day, and the kids loved the game room.
From the training that Beacon provided to volunteers, I knew not to ask any personal questions. Therefore, I was not anticipating learning many details about what guests had been going through. However, guests were very open about some of their stories, and I got a glimpse into the stress the families have been through -- facing homelessness while wanting to provide for their children. Putting names and faces to this issue underscored for me how almost nothing could be more important than offering emergency shelter and emotional support to our neighbors when they have lost their housing and run out of places to stay.
While guests are very appreciative of the hospitality and support of the Families Moving Forward program, as I met them as they came off the bus at 7:00 am each morning I noticed how tiring it is for them to be in this situation. They are anxious and motivated to get all the pieces in place to move into their own homes. Nothing can replace the comfort and privacy of one’s own home.
As a host coordinator at my congregation who will be hosting for the very first time in a week, I am looking forward to our volunteers making connections with the guests through this program. It is truly a program centered on showing love and respect for our community, and I am so blessed to be a part of that.