Welcome Home

You might think that the way to end poverty is to give someone money, the way to end homelessness, to give someone a home. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly that quick or that easy.
At Triune Mercy Center, the church that I pastor, our case managers were getting discouraged: They’d work hard to help someone obtain housing only to see him lose it a few months later. Our social worker Robin Barton told me, “So many of our folks think getting a place to stay will solve all their problems. But after they get a place and get caught up on sleep, they wake up to find they still have problems and still have mountains of work ahead of them. It can be a scary moment. Some crack under that pressure and turn to addictions, or allow their mental health issues to flare up, or self-sabotage so they won’t have to deal with the problems that were under the surface while they were homeless.”
To address the problem, she and case manager Kathy Sharp created a monthly Welcome Home support group for newly housed parishioners. Together they talk over the issues — the isolation that comes once they’ve left the streets, bill paying, budgeting, the unexpected quiet.
Participants choose the topic for each meeting: This summer, they requested a cooking lesson. Robin and Kathy taught a simple rice dish, and gave out pots and pans to take home.
“They discuss things like ‘Now I see why the Rescue Mission made us go to bed early,’  or ‘I miss the accountability at the shelter,’ ” Robin reports. “They speak of not wanting to turn the lights on for too long as they worry about their power bill.”
Through lively discussions, participants share as much with each other as the professionals share with them.
Our partners at United Ministries’ Place of Hope have joined us. In fact, they’ve been so pleased with the results that they now require Welcome Home for anyone they help to house.
“Our participants have been very happy for the support,” said Robin. “I tell them every time we meet that we dream for everyone to have a place to stay. Their success gives us joy and hope for others to also get housing.”