Jane* grew up in a single-parent home. Her mother worked hard to provide for them and always made sure Jane had what she needed. After graduating from high school, Jane took a full-time job. She continued living with her mother and began contributing a little of her earnings towards the monthly expenses. The rest of her check she spent before the next payday.
Then, Jane’s world changed forever.
Within six months of receiving a cancer diagnosis, Jane’s mother – her only family – was dead. Young Jane was suddenly on her own. Without her mother’s support, Jane soon became homeless.
She lived where she could, couch-surfing with friends and, when necessary, sleeping in her car. When her employer learned her situation, they referred Jane to Hillcrest Platte County.
Jane realized she had no control over her life. She was just surviving and accepted the help Hillcrest offered. After entering Hillcrest’s Young Adult Program, Jane was assigned a case manager, a budget counselor, life skills classes, and an apartment sponsor. They became her tribe.
She met weekly with her case manager to review her goals and progress towards achieving them. Before each meeting, she prepared her documents and wrote down any questions or needs she wanted to discuss.
Every Tuesday evening, Jane attended life skills classes to assist her journey to self-sufficiency. She enjoyed the lessons and discussions with others in the program. She also regained confidence in herself.
Building a Connection
When Jane moved into her apartment, she found a vase of fresh, brightly colored flowers and a small note card with her name on it. Inside the card was this message, “Hi Jane! I’m Mary**. I will be bringing your welcome meal and a few other items to help you feel at home. Please text or call me when you can.”
Jane’s case manager had told her that churches sponsored most of their apartments, and someone from her sponsoring church would be contacting her. She hadn’t had a home-cooked meal in weeks, and it sounded pretty good. She sent a text to the number Mary had left on the note.
Several hours later, there was a tap at her door, and she opened it to find a smiling face holding a cardboard box and carrying several grocery bags. During their text conversation, Mary had asked Jane if she could also bring over a few items to stock her pantry and refrigerator. Jane had been surprised when Mary asked about her favorite foods, not just bread, milk, and eggs. The grocery bags contained some of her favorite snacks and comfort foods. In the box were two square pans of enchiladas – one ready to eat and the other ready to freeze for a later meal.
Mary chatted with Jane as they put away the groceries. She shared a little about herself and let Jane know she was there for her. Mary would check in with her once a week to see how Jane was doing. Mary also told Jane that she and her small group at church knew she had been through a lot, and they would be praying for her comfort and success.
Jane lived at Hillcrest for six months and learned to take control of her life. She also learned how it felt to be loved unconditionally by a stranger who provided encouragement, support, and a sense of belonging. Of course, by the time Jane graduated from Hillcrest, Mary was no longer a stranger. They had built a relationship that continued beyond graduation.
You Can Help
Hillcrest Platte County provides a helping hand to many of the areas homeless. What sets Hillcrest apart from other housing programs in the area is You.
The encouragement and support received through apartment sponsorship make a big difference in a resident’s success. Residents living in an apartment with an active church sponsor have a better chance of success than residents living in an unsponsored apartment.
As Christians, our calling is to build connections with those around us by showing the love of Jesus. Sometimes we show that love with a phone call to a resident in a transitional housing apartment. A call where you listen to their struggles and provide encouragement. Sometimes it’s an email that shares positive scriptures and asks if there is anything you can do for them. Or, it’s a gift card to a local restaurant so your resident can experience their first meal out in a very long time.
If you are called to show God’s love through human connection and would like more information regarding apartment sponsorship, contact Rebecca Sayre at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 877-4397.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited in.” Matthew 25:35
*Jane is not a real person. Her story is a composite of several Hillcrest residents.
**Mary is not a real person. She is a composite of Hillcrest apartment sponsors.
Peggy Staver is a former budget counselor for HPC. She blogs at her personal site and writes content for non-profits and small business websites. You can find her at https://www.peggystaver.