As a Room In The Inn volunteer, I worked with Andy and his forever friend, Sandy. The following is Andy’s story as I know it.
When I walk down the street, no one will look me directly in the eye. Are they thinking I will ask for money or are they afraid of me? Do they think my clothes look unclean and that makes me dirty? Am I invisible to them? Do they not see that I am a person who has hopes and dreams like they do or do they just see a homeless person?
My name is Andy, and this is my story. I was born to a Mom who felt she couldn’t take care of me, so I was raised in an orphanage. No one was there for me, so I felt lost and alone—a nobody. I grew up and got married but I was still alone. I had a good job, but something was still missing. Maybe that made me a nobody even then. I got sick and went out on FMLA and then received short term disability. When my disability ran out, I went back to work, but it was too hard, so I had to leave. Maybe losing my job put the final strain on my marriage – and my wife asked me to leave.
I had no money, no home and no job. I was homeless. I never really believed in God and now I wondered if God thought of me as a nobody too. Living on the street isn’t easy. When you have no home, the things others take for granted become very important. Hot showers, a warm meal, shelter from rain, being warm in winter, but the worse thing was being treated like you don’t exist.
I felt I only had one friend and she checked on me every day. One day she told me about a program called Room In The Inn. It was a place where I could have a warm bed to sleep, the ability to get clean and more important spend time with other people. The first time I went, I wondered, would I be a nobody to them as well?
During the registration, for the first time in what seemed like a long time- someone looked me in the eye and smiled. I wasn’t treated like a nobody. I heard someone say we were neighbors. That made me feel good.
A van came to pick us up and I wondered, why would a church welcome me ? I had a hot meal and knew I would have a warm bed to sleep in, but I still felt alone. A gentleman walked up to me and introduced himself to me. He was a member of the church and made me feel welcome and accepted—like a somebody. We talked and then he gave me something that changed my life forever. He gave me a Bible.
I read the Bible he gave me every day. In the words I read I started to know that God never considered me a nobody. Each day, the words came alive for me and being homeless didn’t seem as lonely. I had God and the people at the churches that opened their doors to me. I had hope. As the days went by, I received good news that I had qualified for health coverage and I was able to find government housing. Life was turning around. I was a somebody.
Andy didn’t get to move into his housing. He was riding his bicycle to a storage building to get his few belongings and he was hit by a car. Andy died in February 2008. While his time on earth was filled with pain and sadness, the host sites who opened their doors, the gentleman who gave him a Bible and the Room In The Inn program made it possible for Andy to leave this world feeling like a somebody!
Sandy told me that the RITI program and the hosts who opened their doors were so important to Andy. There are other “Andys” out there. You can help your neighbors feel like a “somebody”, you can make a difference. Contact Ashley Brown at Innkeeper@urbanministrycenter.org.