It is summer in Florida and each day brings pouring rain, usually for a short while. We welcome it as dry lakes fill and grass is verdant green again. Fort Myers is the lightening capital of the world and our storms can be quite dramatic and sometimes scary. I rush and get all the pets in when the thunder and lightening threatens. When we are with our youth group on a trip we herd them inside quickly. I think of all the people and animals who are outside caught in the storm,not only for a short while but for those who have no safe dry homes for retreat. We work even harder in the summer to find creative solutions to homelessness- any solution is better than living outside as the lightening comes.
Getting into affordable husing is a process. Ruby, Kathy and Kris (in picture below) were qualified for Goodwill Industries Housing for the physically disabled in February of 2014. Kris, who had waited four years for an available Unit was housed in March. He and his kitten met while he was living on a patio. He loved the furniture that church members provided. He had not seen TV in years. They both felt safe and secure for the first time in their new home. Kris said he was so thankful for the miracle of a home. Kathy and Ruby waited until June for a new Residential complex to be approved. On June 28th Kathy was the first person who moved into this beautiful new complex with walk- in showers and features for those with mobility problems. On July 3rd Ruby who also uses a walker moved into a nearby apartment with her cat. Her friend Portia helped her to get the cat ready for approval with neutering and shots. Our ministry paid for her furniture. She said that she thought she had died and gone to heaven when she saw the apartment all ready for her. She could not believe that she could have a literally new and beautiful place to live. She recalled years on the streets and stays in almost inhabitable spaces,like a trailer with no electric or toilets working. We are so pleased for our friends to have this affordable and accessible housing. Ruby is on the left end and Kathy is in the middle. Kathy who lost her home after a difficult divorce wants to help others as she knows how it feels to be homeless. She is volunteering to help us with others who have experienced homelessness, like Diane whose story is below and who will live near Kathy.
On June 10th as the skies threatened a deluge Lauretta made her way to our Tuesday Ministry. We have known Lauretta since 2007 when she lived outside without her medications and could not enter any ministry but ours due to her disruptive behavior. Lauretta has now been on her meds and housed and providing a home for her daughter for five years. She attends church with us faithfully and loves to share with and help others. Lauretta is on the right and her friend Donnie is on the left.
While passing through the Park where our ministry started in 2007 Lauretta met Diane. Diane, who is 60, was sitting at a table with a huge suitcase and some bags. Lauretta reached out to her and learned that Diane was homeless as her money to pay a motel had run out. She had lived in this area with her husband of many years who died over a year ago. She had returned to live with family in another state but did not feel welcomed any longer. She intended to find a small apartment here but now had no money. Lauretta brought her, bags and all, to the ministry. She cried, shared her story and was warmly welcomed by our Tuesday group members. Afterward, Pastor Judy Beaumont and I made several calls and finding no available shelter, we arranged to pay for her to stay in a Transitional Program,After The Rain, until her funds became available in July. In late June we miraculously found an apartment she could just about afford if we vouched for her.
Another miracle, a wonderful grant from The Father’s Table Foundationmade it possible to vouch for her,pay her electricity deposit, and move her in with furniture supplied by this grant and other volunteers.
She will move in on July 8th. She is so happy as she says that Lauretta was her angel leading her to Good Shepherd and that God provided a home for her.
This is Diane outside of our Good Shepherd Church
For the three weeks without funds she was able to stay in After The Rain, a
program for women recovering from substance abuse and addiction. Although Diane never drank alcohol or used drugs, After The Rain’s Director, Miss Bev, made the decision to accomodate Diane temporarily. We were grateful as there is only one small Shelter for women in this area and it was, as it always is, full. Diane enjoyed the warmth and welcome of Miss Beverly, Miss Ruth and all of the women there.
After The Rain is appropriately named. The women who come there have lived through raging storms in their lives and find it a haven as they pursue recovery from substance abuse and addiction. We have helped sponsor women as they entered their recovery there as many cannot meet the cost of program entry. One such women is Donna and her story is another miracle. We met Donna as we picked up Kris,named above, for his new housing from a “flop house” where she cared for one of the men who was critically ill. Donna reached out to us and we developed a relationship with her.We learned that she was desperate to create a new life for herself and to leave that unhealthy environment behind. In relatively short time she became ready to seek alcohol detox, treatment and a half way house. I have accompanied many to detox but only one other sought treatment and transitional residence afterward. In what seemed to us to be a miracle, Donna was not only ready but eager to change her life. After detox, she met the Staff from After The Rain and she was accepted. We sponsored her entry into the program and she is doing an excellent job of working her recovery. She became a helpful buddy to Diane while she spent time at After The Rain.
This is Donna on the right with Miss Bev, Director of After The Rain
We are so thankful that Donna has this chance to turn her life around and that she is doing it day by day with the support of After The Rain.
July has become women’s month at good Shepherd Ministries as Betty will be the fourth woman we assist into affordable housing. Betty had lived tripled up in her sister’s home, sleeping on a couch, for the nine years after the death of her husband. She was a hard worker in a Restaurant and in the Ball Park seasonally until she fell on the job and injured her shoulder and back. We helped her to get her Social Security benefits and she got her first studio apartment. However, the rent for this took up four fifths of her income. She barely got by but loved her home. The rent continued to go up and she prayed that her name would finally come up for an apartment with Goodwill Housing. Finally, this month, after a three year wait, her name came up and her apartment was ready. Betty is moving into her new, and she says forever, home this week. Good Shepherd is helping her furnish her one bedroom town house. I have never seen Betty so happy-except on the day she was Confirmed in her faith on 4/26/14! Betty attends church faithfully and is so happy to affirm her faith.The picture on the left below is Betty standing in front of the Bishop, Bridget Mary Meehan, as she was confirmed.
Betty is seated on the far right with our Tuesday Fellowship members pictured below .
We are so thankful for the miracles of faith,transformation,support and housing that we have witnessed this rainy season. The sun is shining! Thank God! Amen!