Since coming to Christ House, my perspective on the homelessness crisis has shifted. I was raised to not talk to or even associate myself with homeless people. I was taught that I should help, but to keep my distance. As I grew up, I assumed that people who were homeless were using drugs or alcohol or were people who out-casted themselves and refused help.
Before coming to Christ House, my church would put together little care packages for the homeless in Harrisonburg. It included socks, gloves, snacks, a couple bottles of water, and anything else that the church saw fit. This softened my views and helped me to understand that those experiencing homelessness are just as human as anyone else. They have needs that aren’t being met because they’ve gotten the short end of the stick one too many times. I started carrying granola bars and other cheap snacks on me (all my high school self could afford) and in my car. At first, I felt some form of resistance because I was told not to give out money, but I was told nothing about not giving out food. The least I could do for someone is offer a small form of concern and let them know that they are seen.
My time so far at Christ House, just about two months, has been life-changing, but I’ve seen it be even more life-changing for the patients here. Watching them putting their health and recovery first, even while some manage substance use disorders, reminds me that these men are more than their addictions or their past choices. The quality time I’ve gotten to spend with the men has been eye-opening. Each activity I do with the patients creates more trust and allows me to become closer to them. With or without conversation, each of these men has taught me different life lessons. Whether it’s how to take care of some seedlings, win a game of dominoes, or take things slow and relax, I have learned that these small things truly do make a difference. During the day, I know I can find Randy in the living room watching Chicago PD or a movie that’s playing. Sometimes we talk about life in DC or how it’s so different compared to my hometown, and sometimes we just sit with each other. There’s beauty in both, a small comfort knowing that someone will be there for you. These men have also taught me to never give up and never settle for less.
I have learned that Christ House is a place for rest and recuperation, learning to heal, and caring deeply for each and every patient. I can’t wait to see what these next two months have in store.
Hannah Thomas is from Harrisonburg, VA. She is a sophomore nursing student at Eastern Mennonite University, and a spring intern at Christ House. Hannah loves music, singing in the shower or in the car, and playing ukulele. Fun fact: She took karate for many years and earned a black belt!