Meet Our Guests: Rita and Jimmy

Welcome back to our “Meet Our Guests” series! Through these posts, we aim to offer you a glimpse into the real lives of the guests we serve at Interfaith Community PADS. In our first article, we had the pleasure of introducing you to Olivia and Steve, two incredibly strong individuals navigating their unique journeys with resilience. Now, we’re excited to introduce you to two more inspiring guests: Rita and Jimmy.

By sharing these personal stories, we aim to foster deeper empathy and understanding within our community, and to shed light on the struggles and triumphs that our guests experience every day. We invite you to join our email newsletter to continue following these heartwarming stories and to stay updated on upcoming events and ways to support our mission.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Meet Rita

Rita (name changed) came to our shelter in late July 2022. After an unexpected turn of events, she was asked to leave a shared residence. With available funds tied up in a pending property sale, she had found herself homeless. She gathered her belongings and began the search for refuge. 

Rita ended up finding our shelter. After completing the intake, she was given a warm meal and a comfortable place to sleep. “I remember lying in bed thinking, I’m in a shelter, thank God I am in a shelter!” Rita said. She was so relieved. 

Rita began working diligently to get out of her situation. She attended every class and case management meeting assigned to her. She was helping around the shelter, folding linens and taking extra chores. Upon the sale of her property, she applied the assets towards her own place. 

Rita moved into her new place in the fall of 2022. We were able to help her with some donated appliances and other items and we are happy that she is on the road to self-sufficiency. 

We are going to miss Rita, but we are also very proud of her. 

Meet Jimmy

(Story told by Executive Director Harrison Holtkamp)

It was Thursday afternoon when a high school guidance counselor from a school system 15 miles away called me. She had an 18-year-old student who had been sleeping on the school grounds for the past two days. His mother would not let him stay at her trailer (her reasons) and his aunt, who he had been staying with, had gone on vacation two days before and told him he could not stay there while she was gone. The counselor and I talked about his barriers (learning disability, behavioral issues) and how an 18 year old who probably acts 14 or so would react to a shelter full of street hardened adults. She explained that his family had moved around the state frequently and that Jimmy was probably as street wise as any of my guests. I agreed to give him a chance.

Jimmy came into the shelter on Sunday evening and we sat down to complete our intake form. The only items that he had brought with him were an old security guard’s uniform on his back and the rain galoshes on his feet. I started small talk with him, asking about his clothing size while I texted friends to get him some clothes immediately.

We started on the intake and came to a general question asking if the guest was a victim of domestic violence. He said yes. When a guest gives that answer, I normally stop the intake and give the guest an 800 number to register at a domestic violence shelter. We provide a ride if he or she is accepted. I asked Jimmy when this had happened.  He said most of his life, but he probably deserved it. I assured him that he did not deserve it and that we would do our best to keep him safe. As we finished the intake, our friends arrived with clothes and the “security guard” turned into a young man with appropriate clothing.

I took Jimmy to school the next morning and spoke with his guidance counselor and the assistant principal. Because of his age and lack of credits, they were going to transfer him to an alternative high school even further away. When I picked Jimmy up from school that day, we started talking about potentially transferring to an alternative high school in LaPorte County. His only concern was that his mom would sometimes leave a plate of food on her porch for him, and he did not want to upset her. I reassured Jimmy that his mother wanted him to finish school and that we would make sure he did not go hungry.

When I am out speaking in the community, one question I am asked frequently is “do the reasons why guests end up experiencing homelessness ever affect you?” My standard answer is “I have been doing this so long that I have kind of grown hardened…” (blah, blah, blah, tough guy). Not this time…

We are connecting Jimmy with multiple agencies and ensuring that he receives the proper care and guidance. I will keep you all updated on his progress. When we were driving back from school and entering the city limits, Jimmy said:  “Michigan City sure is beautiful.” I agree.

You Can Make a Difference

We hope you have found inspiration and understanding in the stories of Rita and Jimmy, as well Olivia and Steve. Their journeys underscore the vital work we do at Interfaith Community PADS, and the difference that your support can make. 

We will continue to add to our “Meet Our Guests” series in future blog posts, but if you want to be the first to read heart warming stories like this, don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter. You’ll receive more inspiring stories, updates, and ways to make a difference.As we conclude this edition of “Meet Our Guests,” we want to invite you to consider a special way to support Interfaith Community PADS. By becoming a monthly donor, you can provide consistent support that makes a real, ongoing difference in the lives of our guests. Your generosity allows us to continue offering shelter, food, and resources to those most in need. Thank you for considering partnering with us in this impactful way. Together, we can create a world where everyone has a safe place to call home.

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