It All Starts With a Hello: Lessons From Working With The Homeless

For the last three months, I have been working part-time in ministry at a homeless shelter ran by a local non-profit. It has been an absolute blessing and a challenging but immensely rewarding and gratifying experience. The hardest part is always saying ‘goodbye’ to guests when they find housing. I think that’s why there is always an open door policy that after a guest finds housing that they can come back and visit !!! But also I learned that through every goodbye there is this exciting and sometimes worrisome anticipation of the next HELLO. Who will God send our way? Who is the next person we get to serve? What lesson has this person come to teach me? What lesson can I help them with?

I absolutely love this opportunity to serve in a ministry that helps our homeless women and children. But, it can get tense in a house with 30 women all with 30 different stories and backgrounds. I never before have been challenged to use my conflict resolution skills so frequently and I am finally seeing the value in some of my mishaps in life because they equipped me to use those experiences as tools for encouragement.

The one constant and the one thing that makes this shelter a little bit different is the centerpiece, which is God. By keeping God as the centerpiece and focus, I have seen some miraculous changes take place and a rapid decrease in escalations from conflicts. First, praying together with the guests has instantly changed hearts and allowed them to release preconceptions and un-forgiveness towards other. Second, people who would not ordinarily talk to each other are laughing and hanging out. It’s amazing to see! God is working through every demographic and socioeconomic situation that you can imagine and it is heartwarming to witness.

I am also seeing how the teachings about SPIRITUAL GIFTS that I learned at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Virginia, have come in handy. I get to openly encourage people who are struggling with processing certain spiritual gifts that God placed in them and they are now finding comfort in those gifts and dismissing what the world says about those gifts. People who have lost their kids are finding hope and strength in correcting their lives so that they can get their children back and offer them stable housing. People are turning from drugs and the temptation of entering or continuing toxic relationships. It’s just all around amazing.

I am not going to front, it’s not an easy job and probably one of the most emotionally taxing jobs that I’ve ever had. But I don’t mind paying the tax. I mean some days, I get really tired. But when a guest comes to you and hugs you and thanks you for simply doing your job, it feels so rewarding. I feel blessed.

I say, if you ever need encouragement or looking for places to share your love and kindness then visit, volunteer and give your time and energy to a homeless shelter. Get to know the guests. Get to know them and their stories and you will learn so much. It all starts with a simple HELLO and commitment and openness to giving back to complete strangers. If ever you feel your live lacks purpose or validation, then simply step outside your life and walk along side the life of a homeless woman, man or child. It will teach you so much about life and most importantly it will teach you about God.


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