A Sanctuary In Time Of Need
302-652-8278 • fax: 302-652-8641
Several questions might spring to mind when one considers the possibility of volunteering to work with homeless folks. “What would I be doing?” “What is expected of me?” “What do I have to offer?” “Is there really a need for volunteers?”
Underlying these questions is perhaps a less obvious query: “What will I get out of it?” Certainly there is the satisfaction of freely giving of one’s time and energy to persons who are not prestigious and influential, in the world’s view. Indeed, there is that biblical injunction to invite to our table not those who can invite us in turn to their homes, but those who have no apparent means of repaying our kindness. (Luke 14: 12-14)
We might anticipate that volunteering with homeless folks will be time which we give to others without expectation of any return, except the satisfaction of freely giving of ourselves. It is true that this is one of the sources of gratification in volunteering, but there are also others.
James Fowler, in the book STAGES OF FAITH, observes that human growth and movement in faith progresses through different stages just as our bodies mature with age. In order to grow into a faith which is increasingly deep and well-founded, we need to ask questions of our faith. In order to ask these questions we need to “leave home” psychologically, if not also physically. We need a different perspective, a new angle, a viewpoint which we would otherwise be missing, if we are to continue to grow and mature in our faith.
It is as we come in contact with different cultures that our horizons are expanded, our assumptions are questioned. At Friendship House, we believe that the homeless embody a different culture than that to which most of us are accustomed. We believe that in working with homeless folks, we have not only been challenged to give of ourselves, but we have learned to see the world through different eyes. We have learned that our values and our truths may have merit, but they come from our experience. Folks with differing life experiences are living different values.
Working with homeless folks challenges us to look at our cherished beliefs and to refine them; to separate the wheat from the chaff and, hopefully, hold on to what is truly valuable. This is a gift of immeasurable proportions. Without realizing it, homeless persons have helped us to grow in ways we never would have, had we not known them. We have learned that human beings, whether homeless or not, whether financially well-off or living from paycheck to paycheck, struggle with the same basic issues. All of us want stability and security; we want respect; we want our lives to contribute positively to those around us. At the Friendship House drop-in centers and housing programs, we strive to create an environment which enables us to find the common ground, the values and aspirations which unite us as children of God.
What is expected of a volunteer at Friendship House? We ask that you come with an open mind, ready to learn as well as ready to share your skills. What skills do I have to offer?, you might ask. While some folks may have “specialized” skills (e.g., counseling, medical, addictions backgrounds), they are not required. Ask yourself if you have skills at building relationships. Can you develop trusting relationships? Can you become a friend? Can you accept that the people you get to know have to make their own choices and decisions for their lives? Can you make their own choices and decisions for their lives? Can you remain their friend when they make choices that you find disturbing? Can you say, “no,” gently but firmly if your friend asks something of you which you cannot give? If you have a desire to be a friend and the willingness to learn and grow, you have all the necessary “qualifications” to volunteer.
There is always a need for persons who are willing to befriend our guest and residents. Friendship House commits to give you the level of support and counsel and need. We hope and believe that you will find your life has been enriched by getting to know our friends.