As I sat in the office trying to come up with something to write about this month, I found myself having difficulty concentrating thanks to the noise coming from the Gathering Room. If the Packers were playing the Monday night game I would have had no need to investigate the reason for the boisterous yelling and laughter, but since they were not, I left my blank screen to see what was up. When I got to the edge of the Gathering Room I witnessed a group of individuals, who under normal circumstances would never have met, playing a game of Monopoly and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. Not wanting to halt the joviality, I quietly walked away as my thoughts catapulted to memories of my own childhood nights spent playing board games with my family and the word “home” reverberating in my mind.
Behind where I sit, there is a small poster that states, “Residents don’t live at our workplace. We work in our residents’ home.” The Monopoly game was evidence of that motto. Countless residents have arrived expecting to be greeted by a sea of cots and a soup kitchen style meal. What they find is not four walls but a home with multiple matriarchs. We are always available to talk, listen, comfort, offer guidance, and share the good things going on in their lives much like a parent would. We treat them like adults and hold them accountable. We expect them to pick up after themselves, be home by curfew, do assigned chores, and threaten to find them something to do if they dare to utter, “I’m bored.” When rules are broken or an attitude is poor, we deliver consequences. In our home, voices have been raised, tears dried, hugs given, pranks played, and there is no shortage of laughter.
Now, based on what you just read some of you may be wondering if we house adults or are the strict parents of several children. We house both, but the focus is on helping adults get back on their feet. To complete our program, structure and rules are key right from the start if an individual is going to achieve a positive outcome from their time with us. A prospective resident must meet a set of stringent guidelines, pass a thorough criminal background check, and submit to drug/alcohol tests prior to admittance. This process takes time not only because are we duty bound to provide a safe environment, but we also need to be sure our program is one that fits an individual’s needs. Frederick Place is home with a mission and generally not a “stay for a night” type of shelter. Unfortunately that means we occasionally have had to say “no” to a call or knock on the door asking if we can take someone in for a night. I often get inquiries on my shift, and it is hard telling someone we can’t take them at 2AM when the weather is turning cold. I console my feelings of guilt by reminding myself I am working to provide a safe and stable home environment for the current residents, and disrupting the sleep of others to let someone crash for a few hours is the antithesis of our mission.
As I wrote on the subject of home, Bob Martens, a 2014 resident, kept entering my mind. Bob passed away after courageously and stubbornly waging war on lung cancer for 14 months longer than the three months he was told he would live. I originally planned on writing a separate piece honoring Bob. However, Bob was a no fuss kind of guy who declined my request to profile him in this space when he was alive, so it doesn’t seem right to share his life in obituary form now. Frederick Place was a cherished home to Bob during the ninety days he was with us. Not one of us will ever forget what Bob brought to our lives and home. In honor of Bob, I’d like to close with the words Bob used to describe his Frederick Place home.
Living here makes me feel like I’m in an episode of Touched by an Angel, and you are all my angels.
Rest in peace, my friend.