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Redefining Home

Home /hōm/: a familiar, safe, and supportive environment

Seventeen-year-old Brandon listened as his mother Venus told him that the house they were renting had been sold and they would have to find another place to live, he replied “Can’t we go back home, they’re the only ones that ever felt like family to me.”

Most of us think of home as a building, a physical structure where we reside. Like the definition above, at Hospitality House we redefine “home,” and what that word means to those that we serve. While our ultimate goal is to move people out of homelessness and into their own places, we do so in a way that provides stability and a sense of belonging as they plan their next steps.

As the weather has changed with freezing temperatures at night and snowy days on the horizon, we have opened up more beds in our Night-by-Night Shelter. One evening this month, I was called to come assist at the shelter as the crowd was growing and there were some who were restless with so many people inside. As I entered the building at 7pm, I squared my shoulders for whatever I might have to mediate. Someone called out, “Boss is in the house. I recognized that saying from an institutional place. I entered the dining room where people were gathering for the beginning of house meeting, a nightly event where we call out the names of every person who has entered, to assure that each person has been accounted for. Every chair was full, some were in wheelchairs or leaning on walkers; many stood, the crowd spilled out into the hallway, so when names were called you could hear a distant answer from those who could not squeeze into the room.

After the roll call, I stepped forward and began to speak. Over 75% of those in the room had their eyes cast down, making no eye contact. Not uncommon, as they are not used to people looking directly at them. I opened with how glad I was that they were there for the night and that we had a warm place for them to sleep. I told them I was glad they came inside and had a good meal. I let them know that it was very crowded tonight, and it was going to take some extra patience as they found room to set up their mats. I pointed out that they would have to work with each other to fit everyone in but reminded them again how good it was that they were here, in a warm place, and how happy we were to see them on this night.

Slowly, I started to see heads lift and many were looking at me. One lady sitting on her walker seat, said, “I’m glad we got a place to go.” Looking across the crowded room, I saw a hint of relief, as the weight of their present state was being recognized. As I turned the meeting back over to shelter staff, I reminded people once again to be gracious to each other, remembering how important it was that everyone has a space to laydown tonight. The tension in the room had lowered and hopefully it would be a quiet night. As I left the room, a few of the regulars called out “goodnight Ms. Tina.”

I have thought a lot about this night and the faces in that room; how they shifted with just a few words of encouragement. It was a reminder of how important it is to acknowledge people, their humanity, and how difficult their lives might be. A reminder of how important this work is and how it impacts people. A reminder of how important our words are toward people. If we can offer genuine kindness, then other things like a warm place to sleep and a hot meal, are received much more graciously and shared with others in the room.

At Hospitality House of Northwest N.C., a home is not just a place where people reside, it’s redefined as a community of encouragement, support, and hope. A place where the people we serve feel welcomed and supported as they plan their way forward.

With thanks this Holiday Season,

Tina B. Krause

Executive Director

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Every chair was full, some were in wheelchairs or leaning on walkers; many stood, the crowd spilled out into the hallway, so when names were called you could hear a geometry dash subzero distant answer from those who could not squeeze into the room.

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