My name is Charla Arnold. I am one of the Board officers for The Refuge. A few years ago my ex-husband and I separated and eventually divorced. At the time of the separation, due to unfortunate circumstances, I found my self penniless and ended up having to live in a homeless shelter and rely on a soup kitchen for my daily meal. Thankfully God not only protected and walked with me during that time but my life has now come back to order. I was able to work out of the cycle of homelessness utilizing the helps and tools that are available there. I am one of the lucky ones; not everyone has that opportunity. Here is part of my story:
Today I went by a shelter. The same one I had to live at. Having lived there I know things about it that an ordinary person would not know. I know the paint is peeling. I know the grass is blanketed with the cigarette butts and the thousand tears of those who stayed there who had no other place to go. I know the porch has broken slats in the wood because no one has the time or care to fix them because after all its a transient place. I know unless one of the guests decides to be kind and put something in the fridge the fridge is was always empty except for ice. The cupboards contain the random ingredients left from the stays of past guests. I know the walls are covered with art work that was gathered from the trash or refused at Goodwill. I know on the women's side the sink has a permanent drip, drip, drip onto a porcelain base. If you are assigned to the dorm on the right hand side the drip, drip, drip will sing to you sweetly all night long as you try to sleep. Because early in the morning, at 7:00, you have to be out of the building like it or not. The building closes for the day. After all...those who stay there are only there for a short time till they are asked to move on.
I have watched those around me cry because of the hopelessness of a cycle that is hard to escape. I know basic items are stolen like socks, pony tail holders, and phone chargers. Though, if the person who had taken them would have asked you would have happily given it them to them.I know of bigger items being stolen. Like your precious laptop that had the last Mother's Day gift your daughters had given you on it. It had a computer sticker from the dollar store of a Les Paul guitar with roses on it. The computer was replaceable; the sticker was not.
Yes the people who have stayed there are transients; but they were not always. Some, like me, are moms who raised their babies, planted gardens and made apple pies from their own apple trees. Others are pastors who were one week preaching from a pulpit the next voted out by their boards and had to vacate parsonages. Some are abused, be it man or woman, and need a safe place to run. Some are teens who have no where else to go. Yes, some are there by choice which is hard to understand. But, the face of homelessness is not the pictures of inner city that we see on TV; grimy long haired gray bearded people living happily in boxes. It's you and me. It's your next door neighbor. It's your pastor and fellow church goer. It's all of us. We need to decide what will we will offer our friends in our own back yard when they need help.