By Mike Fouts
I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35
On Labor Day of 2012, Washington County’s first emergency shelter for families experiencing temporary homelessness opened on the campus of Guardian Angels Catholic Church. Families working with St. Andrew Lutheran Church’s Community Resource Program in Mahtomedi were welcomed into a comfortable, safe, community-living environment in which they were provided snacks and meals, private bedrooms, all of their general household needs, a spacious back yard for children, and a large community gathering area.
Hope for the Journey Home hosts families who have gone through a screening process at St. Andrews to ensure the community setting of our program is the most appropriate. We typically host families who are under-employed, rather than unemployed, and who do not have a history of chemical/alcohol struggles or significant mental health challenges. The reality is, almost all of the families who stay with us look very much like our next door neighbors. Their children attend school with our children, they may be sitting near us at church, and they may very well be interacting with us on a daily basis and we don’t even know it. In many ways, the struggle to make ends meet that our guests experience is invisible to those around them.
From the beginning, we have relied upon the community to support this ministry, and you have gone above and beyond our expectations. Each year more than 600 volunteers from 30 area faith communities volunteer with us – hosting arts/crafts days for children, serving meals, engaging children with games or homework, and simply being present 365 days a year. Countless local businesses have provided linens, maintenance support, donation drives, catered holiday meals for the families, and more. Other organizations have created “birthday bags” for the children, and both Boy and Girl Scout troops have assisted with Silver and Bronze Award and Eagle Scout projects.
To say “Thank you” on behalf of the nearly 200 families who have stayed with us, we will be hosting a family friendly 5th Anniversary celebration on Sept. 24, 2017. The entire community is invited to learn more about who and what we are, and to enjoy the company of others who have made this program such an incredible success.
Find out more about Hope for the Journey Home Shelter and how you can get involved at our website guardian-angels.org/hope.
Mike Fouts is the coordinator for Hope for the Journey Home.