Finding Home in a Homeless Shelter

Fall break of my sophomore year I went on my first service trip. In the house where we stayed hung a small tapestry that read the following quote by B. Cooke:

“We need to find people who mean something to us, people to whom we turn knowing that being with them is coming home.”

At the time, I thought I appreciated these words. However, they have never resonated within me as deeply as they did on this fall break.

Senior year, my fifth (and final) service trip was spent in Albuquerque, New Mexico at St. Martin’s Hospitality Center where we served people experiencing homelessness. The shelter offers many services, including breakfast, a mailroom, showers, a clothing closet, and a long-term storage room.

From Left to Right: Laura Shircliff (Sr.), St. Martin's Client, Shelby Snedeker (Sr.)

I spent a lot of time in the long-term storage room, essentially a large closet stocked with cardboard banana crates. Clients of the shelter can sign up to use one of these boxes and keep any spare clothing or items in their box, rather than carrying everything they own onto the streets each night.

As I worked in this room a striking thought occurred to me, The contents of this box are the only things that belong to this person. However, as the week went on I realized this wasn’t true. The people of St. Martin’s have created a loyal and genuine community in the midst of their suffering. They find joy in this community, not through material things, and in that sense they belong to one another.

One of the client, a man I deeply respect, told me, “There is a lot that I have to be angry and upset about, but I never let it show.”

“Where do you find the strength to stay so positive?” I asked him.

“It’s these people. They’ve been through so much and they don’t deserve any more misery. I care about them and I want them to be happy, so I always try to put on a smiling face for them.”

And he does. He knows most clients by name and greets them with an effervescent charm as they come into the shelter.

The bond that he described is something I not only became aware of as the week went on, but something I became a part of. My fellow group members and I were carefully woven into the fabric of these people’s lives with every moment we shared with them. They graciously included us and made us feel like we belonged with them too. At the end of the week, I was near tears as we pulled away from the shelter, many clients and staff members waving goodbye from the doorway.

I will never forget how after only five days of meeting us, they made this place our home.

Shelby Snedeker
2013 Graduate
Major: English, Creative Writing
Host Site: St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, Albuquerque NM

The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.