What I've Learned from the Folks at 100 Nights Shelter

by Lesley Hildrey, Intergenerational Minister at St. James

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I have just started a second part time job in the Resource Center at Hundred Nights, Inc. After just five days there, I thought I would share my insights with you, because I have been so impressed by what I have encountered so far:

  • People without homes value good, home cooked food and gratefully appreciate a decent meal, though they can still be picky, stick to special diets on principle or smother things in mustard, or ketchup, just like you do.
  • They really enjoy and appreciate a good shower, just like anyone does.
  • People without homes still have the capacity to be joyful, despite their current bad luck. In fact they cherish the little things in life far better than many, like a warm smile and a coffee in the morning.
  • Not everyone at the Resource Center is homeless, though many can be. They might be there to meet friends, get their laundry done, complete application forms with someone around for guidance or to eat breakfast or lunch when they're all out of food. (Did you know that The Resource Center provides two meals a day, Monday through Friday and an evening meal at weekends, because The Community Kitchen is closed? )
  • Some Hundred Nights guests will wash the dishes, pick up cigarette butts outside, take out the trash, or just give you a smile to show their appreciation, without being asked.
  • When someone loses a member of their family, others mourn with them, support them with hugs and let them talk, if they need to.
  • 99% of them will share whatever they have with another person who needs it, even if they really wanted it all for themselves.
  • Some think they are rebels, some make choices you might question, some have been in prison or need to do community service to stay out of prison, but the large majority are so very polite and friendly, (please don’t let one or two give the rest a bad name!).
  • I have observed guests coming into the Resource Center with a cheery smile in the morning and a pleasant attitude, despite having had yet another rough night with very little sleep. They accept being moved on and on around town by the police, (who are just enforcing the City of Keene's laws: you can stand or sit around in town all night, but you cannot sleep). They accept getting soaked in the rain, frightened in the woods and all the other horrible things that happen to them that we don't even know about: like health issues, being terrorized by someone and having things stolen...yet they don’t make a fuss.
  • Some have done time (though not all, by any means), jailed for something that they did many, many years ago. That’s all it takes to become a “leper”, an outcast: one mistake, one conviction. Others are veterans but this is where they find themselves, for whatever reason, after serving their country: in a tent at an illegal campsite with the possibility of a bed in a noisy, crowded shelter during the coldest months their best hope of surviving another winter.
  • Yet others are a long, long way from home. Or their families. Getting there might not be an option: too expensive, too traumatic or it’s just been too long. Some may not have custody of their own children whilst others have custody of someone else’s children. Whatever the reasons behind this, you can see how much they love them all. The tiniest piece of news, or a milestone gained by someone's child is celebrated by everyone, all day.
  •  Finally, in my five days there, I have not once witnessed any prejudice, unlike the rest of society. They may not be "angels" - and who is - but isn't this spiritual “food for thought", for all of us?

 If you would like to help Hundred Nights and their Resource Center you could:

  1. Cook a crock pot meal, (lunch uses 2 - 3 crockpots usually), for noon time. Perhaps a friend might share it with you?
  2. Donate essential care items, such as toiletries: deodorant, tampons, conditioner, shampoo or winter boots, long underwear and other things wished for on their website.
  3. Drop by and offer some volunteer time or sign up to help at the shelter when it opens in the middle of November, (volunteer training sessions are coming up soon).
  4. Buy laundry and dish detergent, or paper towels for them, they always need these.
  5. Offer your warm clothing that you no longer need, if it is in good condition, or purchase an extra item or two next time you buy for yourself.
  6. Donate your worn out clothing to the Planet Aid bank by the apartments opposite Papagallos: this one specifically donates the proceeds to Hundred Nights.
  7. Walk by and smile / say "Hi" to the people standing around outside.
  8. If you are an employer: consider where you might be able to offer a fairly simple job to someone and give them a second chance.
  9. Advocate for them in the newspaper or in town meetings. (They are already squeezed into the little Resource Center at lunch time and this is going to get much harder once the wet and cold weather arrive, they really do need larger premises).
  10. Donate money or prizes for fundraising events such as the Live/Silent Auction.
  11. Support / attend their three fundraisers: Touch a Truck on Oct 7th at Market Basket, the Live/Silent Auction on Dec 9th at the UCC or The Gimme Shelter/Cabin Fever Boogie on March 24th at the Keene Country Club.
  12. Donate fresh leftover food, or drink, or leave it in the church refrigerator and call / text me to collect it. (Lesley: 603-853-6720.)
  13. Offer them a few flowers for their tables, your used magazines, etc.
  14. Most importantly: Keep them all in your prayers regularly.

Thank you for caring.
Yours gratefully,

  Lesley