One of the things that is often difficult about the work done by Serve Moses Lake is that it is rare to see the total impact, and to see how things work out for the clients we see. Because of that, it’s a special blessing when we experience a major win with a client, and those stories are especially worth sharing. So, we’d like you to meet our friend, Phillip*.
Phillip’s journey with SML has been a long one; he’s been homeless for about three years directly following some jail time he had to serve. Phillip would often come in to the SML office, like others, for a sack lunch or to acquire some hygiene items. During the winter, he could frequently be found bundled up, lying down outside the office. According to Director of SML, Tim Cloyd, it was clear early on that Phillip desired a change in his life; however, there was just something he couldn’t seem to get past. Volunteers continued to encourage Phillip, asking if they could get him to a shelter or help him find a job. Others from the community connected with Phillip to encourage and attempt to help him. Nothing seemed to inspire his progress.
Marilyn Moore, an intake volunteer in SML’s office, was moved by Phillip’s situation this past winter. “It was like God said, ‘You gotta help this guy,’” Moore said. So, on a slow day at the office, Moore stepped outside to invite Phillip in. After they talked for a while, Moore personally drove Phillip out to the Housing Authority office and helped him to complete their requirements. Phillip had been there before, but hadn’t been able to complete the paperwork due to suffering from a degenerative eye condition. Moore sat with him and filled out the paperwork for him. From that point on, Moore continued to pursue Phillip, to push him, and to do everything she could to help him move forward. “Marilyn really went the extra mile,” Cloyd said.
After a long process of paperwork and appointments, things were finally looking up for Phillip: the Housing Authority had found him a place to live! Before this could become final, Phillip would need to attend a hearing, and upon approval, he would be able to move into his new home in Grand Coulee. The hearing was scheduled, but when the day came, Phillip was nowhere to be found. Moore went to all of his usual spots, but he was clearly avoiding being found. According to Moore, Phillip was dealing with a lot of fear. Change can be frightening, and Phillip was afraid to move away from everything he knew. Eventually, Phillip showed up at the SML office again, and Moore spoke with him and encouraged him. The pair scheduled another hearing and this time, Phillip was there. “Steffanie [Bonwell at Housing Authority] has done a wonderful job,” Moore said. “She’s got the right people out there, people who feel for people that are on the street. They were willing to give him another chance.”
At the last minute, the new place fell through. Phillip fell just short of one requirement: the amount of time needed to pass since his last felony conviction. This was, of course, disappointing to Phillip, Moore, and the other SML volunteers. Shortly after, however, the Housing Authority found another place for Phillip; they were able to get him into transitional housing where he could live for two years before needing to look for another place. This is when Cloyd became more involved. He had a longstanding relationship with Phillip. “It was in those last steps that I felt that I was able to encourage him to keep moving forward and to not be afraid of the challenges or this last minute change; that he wasn’t alone, that he had support with us, with others,” Cloyd said. Phillip seemed bolstered by the encouragement, and despite his fear and past missed appointments, he came to his final hearing and was approved to move into his new home.
SML was then able to use its furniture ministry to fully furnish Phillip’s home the day he got his keys. SML also supplied Phillip with basic household items to get him started: things like a shower curtain, toilet paper, and washcloths. “He was really grateful and thankful for our involvement, for Marilyn that kept pushing, kept forcing the issue,” Cloyd said. “[Phillip] needed that. He said he thought that if he didn’t have that, he’d probably still be on the streets.” According to Cloyd, Phillip was excited to take a hot shower and to sleep, and to later go out and hold his head up high, knowing he was cleaned up and that things were getting better for him.
This story is near and dear to the heart of SML. So many people come through our doors and we are burdened for them all, but at times, a few stick out. “Maybe they’ve given up, but we can see possibilities for them,” Cloyd said. “We can see hope, but they can’t see it. Phillip was one of those.” Phillip was always kind and quiet, never demanding anything from SML or the volunteers. They all wanted to see him move forward and succeed. “It was God’s guidance that started it all and made my heart hurt for him,” Moore said. “God wants us to have contact with these people. ‘I was hungry and you fed me’; that happens every day [here at SML]. And that’s one way we can show them God: how we treat them and what we’re trying to do for them. They’ll see.” Moore hopes that Phillip’s story will give hope to others in a similar situation, that they’ll see there is hope and that change is possible.
“It reminds me that our first call as a ministry, as an organization, is to be present and available,” said Cloyd. “Because we don’t know the timing of things, when God’s going to provide, when that person’s going to be ready to face the difficult challenges. We just have to be patient. This reminds us that there’s hope. There’s always hope. It may take a while, but we need to be faithful, we need to be available, present. We need to be an encouraging presence, and eventually the time will be right.”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.