In January of 2009, Buzz Garcia turned up at the Interfaith Sanctuary, a homeless shelter in Boise, Idaho. His wife and daughter were staying at the shelter. He had lost everything.
“I was working as a handyman in California,” he explains. “I did not pay a traffic ticket and lost my drivers license and with it, my job.”
He describes that day of getting off the bus in the cold and snow as one of the worst days of his life.
For some, homelessness is a choice — and inability to cope with the prerequisites of living a normal life due to a traumatic experience and lack of mental health available.
But for others, it can happen with the roll of a dice.
“Most people I know live from paycheck to paycheck,” he says. “All it takes is some kind of mistake and if you do not have a safety net you are on the street.”
And he’s right.
The Interfaith Sanctuary Shelter & Supportive Services provides a safe overnight emergency shelter to up to 164 men, women and families with children. Their Supportive Services Team help guests identify and set goals that will lead to a successful transition out of homelessness.
Jodi D. Peterson, the Director of Development & Special Programming, says that the community at large, needs to be more compassionate as to why people end up on the streets.
“We as a community need to create more affordable housing and permanent supportive housing options for our homeless community,” she says. “Without more housing options there is very little chance that our homeless will be able to successfully transition from our shelter.”
As she explains, there are so many misconceptions surrounding why people end up without a home.
“They are often accused of being lazy and living off of the system,” Jodi says. “What many don’t understand are the many different reasons someone can become homeless and stay homeless. Learning about the obstacles holding people down and offering to help with solutions instead of accusations is a great start. Many of our guests have lost their identification so are not able to apply for a job, healthcare, food stamps or an apartment. Some have lost their homes from medical mishap or job loss. There are so many stories, so much struggle and so much courage within this group. Getting to know them is the first step to better understanding and compassion. ”
The Interfaith Sanctuary has become a haven for help for so many since its inception in 2005, serving over 1,000 homeless people a year for 11 years.
For Jodi, there have been so many poignant moments.
“There are many moments that bring me to the brink of tears because of the love, gratitude and bravery of the guests we served,” she says. “Everyday I see what strength, courage, dignity and grace look like.”
For Buzz, now, 57, it gave him another chance at life.
“It is difficult to get employers to take you seriously if you are unemployed and on the streets,” Buzz explains. “Sanctuary helped me with my Birth certificate and my Idaho Id. card, and of course a warm place to sleep.
“Sanctuary helped me get back into the work force and I helped Sanctuary by doing, in house, what they would of called in a service to do.”
He continues: “This community and the Sanctuary shelter will help you if you let them. Drugs and drink are not the answer. Keep trying and your day will come.”
Buzz was the shelter’s homeless resident and now runs the maintenance for the shelter and is employed with insurance.
For him, Kindness and Hope means family and friends.
For Jodi, it means giving back.
“Kindness and Hope live together,” she says. “Where there is kindness there is always a greater possibility of hope. Kindness looks different everyday at our shelter, by our staff, volunteers and guests. Hope arises from consistent kindness being served daily to our guests, staff and volunteers. We all need to feel supported by each other to help each other. I am able to do this work each day because of the kindness and hope our guests at the shelter show me everyday.”
To learn more about the Interfaith Sanctuary and to donate, click here.