I realized that all of my posts since arriving here have been about Seattle the city, and not about what I’m actually doing here. I did come here with a purpose after all. 🙂
I am working at a homeless women’s day center called Mary’s Place, which was started out of the Church of Mary Magdalene (CoMM). The CoMM was started 10 years ago when a pastor saw a need from homeless women to have worship and community with one another, for their unique needs to be addressed by the church. I will write more about CoMM in a later post, but today, I want to tell you about Mary’s Place.
Out of CoMM started Mary’s Place, a day center open 5 days a week where women can come and cook their own meals, take a hot shower, get resources on housing, employment, detox and other such needs. Mary’s Place offers classes throughout the week on subjects such as Seeking Safety, Budgeting, Goal Setting and Learning to Ask for Help. There are other self improvement classes as well: knitting and crochet, a writing group and crafts. Every week we have volunteers that come in as medical nurses, naturopath nurses, counselors and pastors, to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the women. There is plenty of time for fun and games, with Movie Day every Friday, and games during slow afternoons.
What you find at Mary’s Place is a place where homeless, nearly homeless and formely homeless women can come and just be. There is help and many resources available for them, or they can just come and enjoy a place out of the cold. Since shelters are only open at night, it provides women a place to go to during the day, instead of walking around or sitting in the park. Over time, the women create a beautiful sense of community with one other. They work together to keep Mary’s Place running. They do all the cooking and cleaning, and many of the volunteers are women who have gone through the program before.
It is not always an easy place to be. While many of the women are here for simple financial reasons that stripped them of their homes, there are others dealing with addictions and mental illnesses. There are personality conflicts here like anywhere else. There are frustrations, tempers and sometimes harsh words that come from a place of despair. But there is also laughter, kind words and hope.
My place here is to be with the women, working “on the floor” (as the staff calls it), helping facilitate groups, and keeping order at the center. Other days I will be working with an advocacy group. I have also recently been given the project of working with families, helping them find resources, getting kids into schools or daycare, helping moms find safe housing for their families. I can already see that this job is going to be completely different from my work in Hong Kong. The situations, the stories, the mentalities, they are all different. And while there are days that I am a little overwhelmed, I am mostly really excited to be here and to be apart of this great and unique community.