Today’s post is from one of our Mission Year interns, Jenna…she shares a bit about her experience co-leading the Speakers’ Bureau with her partner in crime, Jill (both pictured above)  at the Gateway Center…

The past two weeks at the Gateway Center have been filled with appointments, road trips, coffee, and speaking engagements.  Jill and I have had the opportunity to meet and chat with people that are constantly challenging my views and stereotypes.  We’ve talked to men and women who have become homeless through so many different circumstances.  Homelessness was something that they never expected to happen to them.  They understand the importance of breaking down stereotypes because they had to face all of their prejudices when they walked through the doors of The Gateway Center and asked for help.  Some came from broken homes.  Some had childhoods and opportunities that are similar to mine.  Some have been married.  Some have had two houses and four cars at the same time before facing homelessness.  Some have struggled through addiction.  And some have never even touched drugs or alcohol.  We’ve met people who have never told their families about their time on the streets or in the shelter.  And then there are those who have been supported by their families the entire time.
But no matter their past, their ethnicity, their religious beliefs or their current housing situation- there is one thing that I’ve noticed about everone that we’ve spent time with: They’re making important choices everyday.  They’re spending more time with their families.  And they’re fighting through their thoughts of relapse or the temptation to return to their old ways.  They’re being transformed- not only because God is graceful and good, and not only because of their current situation.  But because they’re always choosing what is best for themselves and their families.  And these choices are not always easy to make, especially when you lack the stability of having a place to call home.  And that’s not to say that they’ve never made the wrong decisions or walked down the wrong paths, before or after facing homelessness.  But they’re continuously trying.  Continuously changing.  And they’re persevering.
Everyone that we’ve talked to this week has had confidence in themselves and  their experiences, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.  Everyone we have approached about being on our speakers’ bureau felt that they had ‘quite a story,’ and that they had something to offer to others.  It’s beautiful to see their joy, their pain, their determination, their perspectives.  But mostly it’s beautiful to see that they know they are valuable and they know they can do it.  And despite the fact that Jill and I play a small role in their lives, it’s beautiful to have the opportunity to be a part of their stories.