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From Homelessness to Hope

Robyn Davis, the President of Freedom House Ministries shares her reflections on speaking with our students in our Faith Formation Program:

Last night, I had the pleasure of spending time with students and catechists at Holy Cross Parish on Bay Settlement Road in Green Bay. I was invited by Marti Burkard who directs the parish Faith Formation Program to share the mission and needs of Freedom House. On an annual basis, the Holy Cross Faith Formation Program comes alongside a local or global organization to raise awareness, and meet some of the organization’s practical needs. I confess that I was somewhat apprehensive about addressing 80 students in the school’s gym. I wondered how I would hold their attention for an hour. I typically speak to civic organizations, churches, individuals, government officials, but 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th graders? This could seriously end in disaster. I imagined the students yawning, fidgeting, talking, laughing or worse as I tried to share our passion and the need for our work…

I was immediately put at ease by Marti’s warm greeting. I then was reacquainted with one of the parents who is also a catechist, Dolly, who is employed at Prevea. Dolly had headed up a group of awesome Prevea volunteers who had spent a Saturday morning cleaning and helping out at Freedom House a few weeks ago (thank goodness for coffee!). Then some students started filing into the gym. A small group of boys joined me on the front row. I should have guessed then that this would be a special evening…how many 7th grade boys voluntarily sit in the front row? This young man and I entered into a lively conversation about his passion for reading The Inheritance series of books and creating pictures of its mythical creatures.

After Marti shared about the past projects of the Faith Formation program (isn’t that an awesome name for a program that does more than offer a “head” knowledge of God and encourages service to and for God?), she began to talk a little about homelessness. She let the students know that someone who is homeless might be sitting next to them in church or in school. She shared that homelessness could happen to anyone in the room and how important it was to be thankful that their parents had jobs.

Marti then introduced me to the group. I decided to make the evening more interactive than usual and began by asking the group to share the first thing they thought of when they heard the word “homeless”. The first student raised her hand and responded that homeless meant you didn’t have a home. Hands began to pop up all around the gym, as the students, parents and teachers responded….”hobos”, “hungry”, “poor”. There were many other responses and I began to share what my own ideas of homelessness were before joining the work of Freedom House. I shared a few stories of our families and their journeys before, during and after Freedom House.

I continued to engage the students, teachers and parents by asking more questions: “Where do you think people go when they are homeless?”, “How do you think people feel who are homeless?”, “What can you do to help?” The responses came mostly from the students and were honest and insightful. I was able to effortlessly share not only the heart of what we do, but more importantly, God’s heart for the poor and needy in light of Matthew 25:32-46. To my amazement, the time was flying by!

I opened the floor up for questions and one of the adults asked: “How do people find out about Freedom House?” My response? We need YOU to help us get the word out. Yes, we have a website; yes, we are working to utilize the technology of the day; yes, we go out and talk to individuals and groups throughout the community, but that’s not enough. I encouraged every person in the room to go back to their schools, neighbors, families, friends and share the information that they heard. As you read this today and in the days ahead, I hope you direct those in your “sphere of influence” to our website, to the website of the other shelters in our community (NEW Community Shelter, House of Hope, St. John’s Shelter, to the website of The Brown County Coalition of Homelessness and Housing along with the many other community organizations that serve the poor and needy.

What a privilege it was to spend time at Holy Cross. I look forward to seeing those faces again…maybe here at Freedom House serving a meal or bringing friends and family in for a tour of our facility. Thank you, Holy Cross, in advance for the items that you will be collecting in the next few weeks for our families. Please know that our staff, board of directors and most importantly, our families with children are grateful for your gifts of time, talent and treasure! Thank you for making me feel so welcome in your “home”.

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