At times, it seems that when it rains, it pours; this was certainly the case for Shelby* at the time that she came into the Serve Moses Lake office. After a couple of years of difficulty, from her father’s cancer diagnosis, to a relationship riddled with domestic violence, to losing custody of her child, Shelby had finally hit her rock bottom. Shelby had lived in Moses Lake off and on, but upon her most recent return quickly became homeless after the relatives she was living with ran out of room in their home. Taking her few belongings and her dog, Shelby moved her truck out to the sand dunes, where she would live for the next couple of weeks, not knowing where else to go.
One day, Shelby took her dog out for a walk; when she returned to her truck, she found that her back window had been smashed, and her truck and meager possessions ransacked. She was crushed. With the frequently unbearable heat and the need for a secure place to sleep, Shelby knew she couldn’t just leave the window broken. So, she soon found herself in the SML office.
“She was really up against a wall, with everything hammering her,” said long-time intake volunteer, Judy Allen. Judy met with Shelby for her intake appointment and quickly involved Executive Director, Tim Cloyd, when it became apparent that SML might be able to assist Shelby. “My impression of [Shelby] is that she’s a pretty strong, can-do individual that’s been through some difficult things,” Tim said. Shelby was humble and requested very little, Tim shared; all she was hoping for was help with her window. Judy sensed that there was more to the story than simply a broken window and after digging a little deeper, found that Shelby’s circumstances were much more complex than that.
Shortly after returning to Moses Lake to be close to her father during his bout with cancer, Shelby met a man whom she began dating. They moved away together, and things quickly went south. The relationship became violent, and eventually it ended. Over the course of the relationship though, Shelby lost custody of her 8-year old child. Because she had been relying on her boyfriend for financial support, Shelby quickly fell behind on child support payments, and because of this had her license suspended. This led to much difficulty getting a job and finding her own security, which is how Shelby ended up homeless at the dunes. “[Shelby] admitted that a lot of where she is now is because of choices she’s made in her life,” Judy said. “She’s really trying to get back on track.”
Tim was compassionately moved by Shelby’s situation, and quickly got to work pursuing assistance for Shelby. He contacted a close business partner of SML, and they generously agreed to help with over half the cost of Shelby’s window replacement. Simultaneously, Judy called the Olympia Child Support office to talk with Shelby’s case worker; the case worker was willing to work with Shelby and with Serve to release the hold on Shelby’s license. Things were falling into place. “That was overwhelming to her,” Tim said. “She remarked, with tears, that, ‘I don’t know what’s going on here, but something is happening. Something really wonderful is happening here and I don’t get it.’” In the end, SML was able to replace Shelby’s window and assist her with her overdue child support payment, as well as an invitation to return for assistance with her license renewal fee once she had secured employment. “She really was touched,” Judy said.
Often, the volunteers at SML don’t get to see the fruits of their labor; they refer clients to other help agencies, connect them with a church, or simply pray. These steps are all extremely important and vital to the mission SML pursues, but can be hard to quantify. Shelby’s story is worth celebrating and remembering. “I’m believing that our primary call is to be present and available for people when they’re in crisis and sometimes we’re going to be able to help with meeting those physical, material needs,” Tim said. “Sometimes it’s just going be that we were available, we listened, we cared, we prayed for, we really ministered to that person. In this particular case, I feel that it was both.”
*Name changed to protect individual’s identity.