Recently Mother Grove Goddess Temple was contacted about working with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church with A Room In The Inn project that goes on all year long. In short, area churches provide a warm bed and food to up to 12 women for a week at a time. About 40+ churches in our area participate and about 75% of those (I think!) are actual hosts. The program works to help these women get off the streets and into their own housing. I was very pleased that we got a chance to be a part of this important project even though we have no space for the women.
Many jobs are needed to be fulfilled to make this sort of thing happen. Van drivers transport the ladies from the day shelter in town to a church and back again in the morning (the ladies only stay at the churches in the evening). Then people are needed to provide a hot meal and/or bagged lunches for the women to take with them in the morning. Overnighters are needed to be there in case one of the ladies needs help in the middle of the night. And of course people to help with cleanup are always needed.
Last night I went and did the overnight stay with another woman from Beth Israel. We got there early enough to help with serving meals to the ladies. It was such a lovely evening. We had lace tablecloths set out with a candle at each table. Real silverware, dinnerware, and glassware were used. Once the ladies got their food, we volunteers got ours and dispersed ourselves amongst the women for some light discussion. See this is the most important part for me. We treated the ladies as equals and provided with them a homecooked meal (a wonderful elderly couple made a 6lber meatloaf, a huge batch of mac and cheese, and some green beans) on the same plates anyone else would used and we feasted together in peace. We learned special things about each woman. One older woman was a crocheter and found a woman who teaches free classes with free yarn every Monday. She spoke of her family and their escapades in farming. Another woman shared with us a journal she keeps that she writes in every day. And another was enjoying her last night in the program. Today she moved into her new home after being on the streets for 5 months. Being able to talk with them warmed my heart. Since the ladies have an entire day in which they walk all over town, they get tired quickly. Several of them were battling colds and other illnesses. So we headed to the rooms. Anytime I heard one of them go out and smoke, I followed them with my own (yes I am smoking again, more on that another day). The religious tend to gather in peace at a meal, there is another gathering just for smokers. I listened to more stories and just became that person who listened. Sometimes people just need to be able to say their thoughts with no real interaction. And the fact that I sat outside in the cold with them made them that much more comfortable with me.
My partner and I figured out our sleeping arrangements. One of us has to be awake at all times. So I took the 10pm-2am nap and stayed up from 2am-6am this morning. I was okay waking up, it was a bit harder to stay awake. Since we were housed in the offices, I looked through the bookshelves and walked around looking at various religious art (I love religious art!), some of which I recognized from my Catholic years. I took out knitting and worked on yet another shawl. I read a book that I had brought with me. And anytime sleep threatened to take over, I reminded myself that this was just a small sacrifice to make sure that these women could sleep peacefully and kept warm for a bit. By 6 am I was wide awake and getting breakfast set out for the ladies. Despite early hours, and most of us not being morning people, we had a great morning.
The women extended their appreciation time and time again for our hospitality and willingness to be respectful to them. They have no idea how important it is for us to provide for them. Or even how important it is that we get the chance to meet them. I have thought about each of them all day and the little blessings they brought. In November, St. Mary’s will be hosting the ladies again. You can bet we will be involved again. It’s the very least we can do for them.