A Day Center

This post was written by Christine Lee.  It was originally found here.

I have never been homeless, but I have spent time backpacking Europe, which is kind of like being homeless but with money and options. Everything I took with me on the trip fit into my backpack: it had to be small and I was very particular on what I would take; after all, I would be carrying it around and be responsible for it for the next 7+ days.

No matter how well I packed my bag, it got heavy after awhile. When you put it on your shoulders as soon as you finish your breakfast and you finally set it down next to your bed, long after the sun has set when you’ve been walking all day, your entire body feels it. Like a burden, it followed me to all the historical sights, restaurants, parks, and restrooms. The picture of me standing in front of Stonehenge features my backpack.

I couldn’t set it down: all my clothes, toiletries, itineraries, alarm clock, extra cash – all of my needed earthly possessions were in that bag. I couldn’t just leave it anywhere. Without it, I would be in dire straights.

Luckily, if I had made previous reservations with a hostel or found a B&B early in the day, I was able to leave my pack with the facility and not carry it all day. It was under lock and key – either in my private room or in a locked closet where the front desk clerk only had access. I could enjoy my vacation knowing I would come home to my pack (my everything!) undisturbed. It was a huge weight off my mind.

Our homeless brothers and sisters have the same problem I had in Europe: their life is on their backs. They have to carry their packs everywhere with them. Leaving it lying around isn’t an option because it could be stolen; with money scarce, the cost to replace it would be nearly impossible to do. They don’t have the luxury of a house with locks on it.

And so, The Anchor has designed a solution to this problem: a day center. It is a location downtown where those without a place to call home can put their pack in a safe dry place for the day to go about their business and pick it up later. For some, it is merely a respite to not carry around a heavy pack all day. For others, it is a chance to go on a job interview or meet with caretakers without luggage. The day center will also double as a mailbox to receive mail for those who do not have a permanent address. In the future, we hope to equip the center with a shower and a free washing machine; clean clothes and bodies are essential when you’re constantly on the move – a comfort not many of our homeless friends currently have.

It may seem small and not all that necessary to most, but for those of us who have lived out of a backpack, whether it be in the short term or long term, this is a welcomed oasis.

Long Drags and Slow Exhales… Wants vs. Needs

This is a blog post written by Meg McBride, you can originally find it by clicking here.

This week I participated in the annual Veteran’s Stand Down here in Wilmington. The Stand Down is a convention of providers who serve veterans and those experiencing homelessness together in one location. Organizations hand out information about their services and attendees expect plenty of give-a-ways. People offered free hair cuts, there was a mobile shower trailer, and health screenings (HIV/HEP C testing), along with breakfast and lunch. I went to represent my job with the SOAR program and to meet people in need of Social Security disability help. I shared my space with my friend Randy from church, who came to represent our church’s Hope Center. The Hope Center is my organization too! The Hope Center is day shelter/respite space for people experiencing homelessness. As Randy set up, he showed me his give-away… cigarettes!!! (Our table was next to the American Heart Association–needless to say, they were a bit shocked!)  Randy had put a few cigarettes in ziploc baggies and I just happened to have books of matches as my give-away (people experiencing homelessness who camp outside, use matches in their camps). Without planning, Randy and I made a good team of wants… or was it needs?

As we began to hand out the cigarettes and word got around the convention, our table was the most visited. People expressed surprise followed by deep appreciation for Randy’s give away. As Randy and I discussed how he had made his hand-out choice he said, “I’ve never been asked by a person on the street if I could spare a mini tube of toothpaste or a clean pair of socks.” I am guilty of handing out mini toothpaste and socks! I am quickly learning that what I think the homeless need, is not what they necessarily want. We historically as the church, have not been good listeners. How bold we are to just hand people things and make assumptions about their true needs…and we less often respect their wants. How many times have we truly asked and then responded authentically?

In the homeless community, cigarettes are a commodity and a currency. They are peace makers, deal sealers, and creators of community. As a former smoker, I was always surprised by the uncanny comradery that was created among the few smokers that had slipped out and found a secret space during a wedding, funeral or other event. Sneaking back in, smelling of smoke and pleasantly sedated with nicotine, we were bound to each other through long drags and slow exhales of smoke. I recall a time when my vegan/animal loving girlfriend treated me to a ticket to a holiday fundraiser for Farm Sanctuary in New York City. The event was “star-studded” with animal lovers and we were mere minions quietly watching from the sidelines. We slipped outside in the cold New York night to share a quiet smoke and were joined by a thin, attractive, dressed-to-the-nines young woman from LA. She asked if she could bum a cigarette. Sure she could… As we smoked together, she confessed about her husband’s struggle with drugs, their problems with money and his dying career. She shared with us how hard these things were on their relationship. In our five minutes together, she poured out her heart–a confession of sorts to two strangers made instant friends and trusted confidants through an addiction to nicotine. When we went back into the event… we spotted our new friend standing proudly beside one of the “stars”– we secretly shared in her truth with a subtle nod of our heads and a slight smile on our lips.

Now the American Red Cross, who was beside our table at the Veteran’s Stand Down, would argue that we do not need cigarettes. But what if a need (craving/desire) for a cigarette could create a point of entry into someone’s life? What if sharing a smoke with someone or honoring someone’s choice to smoke birthed a trust, a confidence or a created a safe space? What if a cigarette bridged a gap, spanned a barrier or broke down a wall? What if a few long, slow, deep drags of a cigarette, while hiding in a tiny space away from the all-seeing world became like a confession booth and offered a moment to speak one’s real truth? As the Stand Down event continued, what became apparent was that real relationship was being formed around UN-smoked cigarettes still securely packed in their baggies as Randy had placed them. Many friends who were experiencing homelessness not only came for a free handout that they really wanted… but stayed to talk, laugh and share friendship in long drags and slow exhales of hope.

BBQ Fundraiser -April 9th 3p-8p

bbqApril 9th, 2016 from 3pm-8pm we will be having The Hope Center BBQ Fundraiser at Reggies 42nd Street Tavern (1415 S 42nd St Wilmington, North Carolina.) Featuring the Frontman of the Flat Duo Jets and The Dex Romweber Duo, Dex Romweber (Solo), Country Sensations The Dew Drops, The Rock and Roll Combo Holy Rivers, and Showcasing Roadhouse Blues from Snake Malone & The Black Cat Bone.
Tickets will be $10.00 which  includes a BBQ Plate
(BBQ Chicken or Black Bean Patty)
Green Beans
New Potatos
Rolls

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