Sunday, January 10, 2016

Helping People in a Pinch--Midweek Update

For the last few months instead of posting on the blog, we have been adding a story about the people we see to BUF's Midweek Update instead. You can find us under Humanitas: Helping People in a Pinch. We hope you will join us there.       The Humanitas Team

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Behind Bars--and aftermath

Another unfortunate fact of life is that some people flout our laws and after paying their debt to society often have nowhere to go but the streets.  They have no money, no family to support them and do not know where to look for a helping hand.   Most of their problems are drug related. 

Mervin is one of the lucky ones.   He served several months in a Canadian jail and afterwards was able to make his way back to the U.S.  His family are in St. Louis where they found a job for him in the trucking industry.  He needed help to return home.  The bus fare was $195 and with a pledge from us and the other churches within the Community Resource Network, he was assured of a passage to the Midwest.  As we pointed out, the rest is up to him.  He set off--with the blessings of all of us in the network. 

Marcus was well-dressed and well-spoken and had the good fortune to have the support of his mother.  After his release from prison, he was offered a place in clean and sober housing.  He needed help to secure this bed and we were happy to give him a pledge.  The house had telephone service and so we gave him information on employment opportunities and agencies which he could access after he completed the clean and sober intake process.  He arrived at Humanitas in the company of Charles who also needed our assistance to secure a place in which to maintain his sobriety.

These houses are to be commended upon the work they do to help men and women reclaim their place in society.  They provide rooms for a low rent, the means whereby the addicts can attend meetings, find mentors and encourage and support each other through this very difficult period.  Most post-incarcerated people are not that fortunate.

Donald was just out of prison.  His only means of identification was his prison number. 
As well as showing him where he can find a daily hot meal and giving him some free bus passes, we referred him to Access ID, an adjunct of Street Lawyers, who help people obtain the necessary documentation, a birth certificate for example, so that they can apply for a State Identification Card.  Without this, it is impossible to get a bed in the Lighthouse Mission, obtain a driver's license, apply for a job or claim any kind of assistance from the city or state.   Without the help of friends or family, Donald will probably have to live on the street until his interstate documentation arrives.   At that time, we will help him pay the fee for his ID. 

As always, we listen, encourage and offer our blessing to the folks who find us.  We have a list of places that are sometimes available to help former prisoners, but without friends and family plus the added problem of addiction, it is a difficult path for them to walk.   However, we know that some are successful and that is what we continue to strive for.

We thank you all most sincerely for your continued encouragement and financial support in our clubs--both the 10-bucks-a month  and our one-client-a-month for $35.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


The Humanitas team is constantly reminded of the fact that living from paycheck to paycheck exacts an emotional toll from people doing their best to live up to their responsibilities.  Trying to keep up with unexpected bills when theft enters the picture and a paycheck is no longer sufficient compounds their worries.    

Deirdre is a single mother of two managing on a little more than minimum wage.  While at Elizabeth Park with her children, her purse was stolen.  Her credit card, house keys, license and cash for the week were gone. She was embarrassed to ask for help but we were glad she found us. As her current insurance card and registration form were untouched in her car, we were able to give her a voucher for gasoline, thereby freeing up some money in her transportation budget to pay for changing the locks on her house.  A visit to other churches in the Network will enable her to meet the fees to replace her driver's license.

Dennis (his American name) is what is known in Canada as a "scoop" child.  In the sixties at the age of two, along with many other indigenous children, he was taken or "scooped" from his First Nation mother and sent to the United States for adoption.  His biological mother is still devastated as a result of this governmental action and over the years has continually refused to sign his adoption papers.  Thus he remains a Canadian citizen called Gilbert.  He jokingly introduced himself to us as "a man with two names." His Canadian passport (Gilbert), US Resident Permit (Dennis) and licenses for operating heavy machinery and truck driving were in his backpack when it was stolen.   However, the owner of a landscaping company has offered him a job so we made out a voucher for a bus pass so he can get to and from work.  He is saving up to replace all his paperwork which will cost him several hundred dollars. 

Pierce is a young man who came west to join his brother in Oak Harbor.  After only a few days there, he was beaten up and robbed.  He still bore the wounds on his face when we saw him.  He wanted a bus ticket back to Tennessee.   The west had lost its appeal for him.   We joined with our CRN partners and gave him a pledge towards his ticket home.

Humanitas has now been in operation for a year and a half.   Thank you for your continued support.  We feel privileged to be able to help the citizens of Bellingham on behalf of BUF.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Band Aids

In the large scheme of things, Humanitas is a very small life preserver for people who are living under difficult circumstances and are struggling to keep their heads above water. Critics of  the giving of alms use another metaphor, suggesting that it is just a band aid. They are right.  It is.  A band aid reminds us we have a sore to tend; a band aid protects a wound and keeps it clean; a band aid allows healing to take place; a band aid is--simply--timely care.   For example:

Edgar needed shoes.  His only pair had holes in the soles.  He was living temporarily in clean and sober housing, he was taking classes at Good Will to train to be a cashier, and he had no way, other than walking, to get from place to place.   We gave him a voucher to purchase a pair of shoes so he could do so in reasonable comfort.  His gratitude was humbling.  Such a small thing--a leak-free covering for his feet.

Neat, clean, sober and well-educated, William needed minutes for his cell phone.  New to Bellingham, he already had a sponsor in AA, had a bed at the Mission,  and was very actively seeking work.  He needed his phone to communicate with prospective employers. We gave him some bus passes so he could get around town plus a voucher for a monthly, prepaid phone card.  William actually proclaimed that we had offered him a lifeline.

Glenda and Rob were living in their car, parking at night in public rest areas.  They had been out of work for several months and could no longer afford their apartment.  Now, though, filled with optimism, they were both due to start a new job, at the same place, in two days time.  In addition, Rob had secured a second job working at night.  They needed gasoline to make sure they could get to work.  We also gave them our laundry packet to enable them to do two loads of washing beforehand.  This timely band aid enabled them to start their new jobs in fresh, clean clothes.

We are always taken by surprise when so much gratitude is expressed for these small services.   Calling what we offer a band aid is certainly one way to describe the giving of alms.  It is the word "just" to which we take exception. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Another Leap of Faith

When we began this ministry just over a year ago, it required a leap of faith because none of us had any experience with this kind of outreach program.   We are now looking to take another leap of faith by increasing our monetary maximum from $35 to $40 per person per year in order to match what the other churches in the Community Resource Network offer. Our ten-bucks-a-month club will be accompanied by our new one-client-a-month club and we hope our generous donors will join up.

Sometimes, we see people who are struggling under what seem to be impossible odds, either economically, physically or emotionally. In this month before the holidays, we realize that these factors often cannot be separated.

Meredith approached us for help with rent.  Often we cannot do so, as the amount required is either too large or it may mean an ongoing problem that cannot be helped by our once-a-year assistance.   This time, though, Meredith had just found a job, and could manage most of the rent on her own with a little starter boost from the Community Resource Network.  She is the mother of 10 children and lives at Dorothy Place.  Her son, her second child, was murdered several years ago. Meredith also lost custody of  her children several years ago, but she has now recently regained it, with the exception of her youngest child, age 5, who lives with her oldest daughter. Her son's murder trial is scheduled for the beginning of next year. She has visited other churches, so we added our pledge to those she had already received, along with our blessing that she would prevail through this next difficult year.
Peggy lives with Harry, who suffers from severe diabetic neuropathy.  They own a small RV in the county.They are able to keep warm because Opportunity Council gave them enough wood to see them through the winter.  Peggy was hoping for help to buy tarpaulins, as the RV has a roof that leaks in several places.  She had already done the legwork and priced the best tarps for the job at a local hardware store. When they each pool their resources, she and Harry are able to save $17 per month for "emergencies,"but were hoping that our combined pledges would cover the entire amount" so their emergency fund would be untapped this month.  We were glad they came to us and gave them our pledge towards the tarps.   They expressed their gratitude for this assistance--and also because it hadn't rained in over a week.

Marjorie has fallen behind with her rent for the first time in her life. She was not being threatened with eviction, but she has four children between the ages of 7 and 2, had recently been abandoned by their father and was now a single, working mother. She had a full time job, paying $1000 per month in rent, and had no choice but to take a two-week leave of absence, without pay, to care for her sick two-year-old who required hospitalization. Hence, her predicament.  The amount she required, though, was too large for the network to cover.  We gave her our pledge towards a part of what she owed, and strongly urged her to speak to her landlord to ask if she could pay off the remainder in weekly installments. We felt that was her best approach as she has a good rental record.  She was filled with anxiety: afraid of losing her job by taking a little extra time to seek help, and afraid of speaking with her landlord "who isn't the nicest person." May she work something out with him and may it all go well for her and her children from now on.

Thank you to all our donors for making it possible for us to continue to serve those in need during the holiday season.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

First Anniversary plus Fundraising for Folk in a Jam

On October 30, 2013, we opened our doors for the first time.   We were thrilled to be a part of Bellingham's Community Resource Network and, 12 months later, we still feel the same way.

Last Saturday, we spent the day at BUF's harvest festival.   It was a happy gathering and we used it as a forum to advertise our presence and to raise some money for our cause.   It was truly a team effort as, during the summer, some of us opted to spend several mornings picking blackberries, others chose to meet a couple of afternoons to make jam in BUF's kitchen, while the rest provided the glass jars and labels for our product:  Humanitas Homemade Blackberry Jam.   It is excellent--and we have more jars available if you missed the sale at the harvest festival (see the Humanitas table in the social hall each Sunday). 

It is appropriate at this point, I think, to say a word about the dedicated team of people who show up at Humanitas, week after week, to greet each guest with a warm smile, a ready ear, and an open heart.  During these 12 months, we have become a tightly knit ministry, but that does not mean we are a closed group.   We welcome anyone into our fold who wants to serve our greater community in this way.   We are proud to work with other churches in our inter-faith effort to help local people who are going through a tough time.  We have learned the myriad ways in which they suffer,  our level of awareness has grown, and we have come to realize, in all humility, that "but for the grace of God" or "the luck of the draw,"  we, too, could be a step away from disaster.

Bailey needed a warm jacket.  His family was paying for the cost of travel to Spokane so that he could enter a drug rehabilitation facility, but winter is on its way.    The coat he was wearing belonged to his brother, and he wore it only on "a temporary basis."   Luckily, Bailey's timing was perfect--we were having a coat drive at BUF that week.   One of us escorted him to the coat pile and he spent a wonderful few minutes choosing a coat that fitted him properly.   As he left, he remarked that it was "better than his brother's!"  No funds from Humanitas changed hands in this transaction.   Thank you, BUF coat donors.

Myra lives in a motel that has seen better days, but she is adamant that she will not relocate.   She relies on a wheelchair, as her legs have been amputated below the knee. Volunteers do her shopping and any other errands she may require.  She runs into difficulties because she does not treat the volunteers well.   If this behavior continues, our fear is she may run out of options.  Following several telephone calls, though, a seasoned volunteer came to us on her behalf.   We gave him a voucher for groceries from Fred Meyer so that Myra could purchase the special food she insists she needs.   Not everyone is grateful for our help, but that does not mean the need is any less.

Toby suffers from Crohn's disease and had just been released from another hospital stay, this time for two weeks.  He tries, but it is hard for him to hold down a job under these circumstances.   He needed help to pay a power bill, and had pledges from several churches in our network.   Toby's wife is working full time in retail sales, but she is a hair and makeup artist and "works around the clock" building up her clientele.    We gladly added our pledge to those he had already collected.

Thank you for continuing to support this mission.   We are very careful with your donations.   Every dollar we receive goes to the clients.   ALL our supplies, e.g. stationery plus the coffee, tea and healthy snacks we offer our clients, are donated by the Humanitas team. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


We have been visited by a number of women in late middle age (or older) who struggle to make ends meet.    It is unlikely that their lot in life will improve in the near future, so a place to sit and have a hot cup of coffee, a conversation with friendly faces, and a little monetary assistance, be it only once a year, can bring immeasurable comfort.

Jane has been diagnosed with a neurological disease which affects her memory and as a result can no longer work.  She also needs surgery on her painful knees.  Because of long-time domestic abuse, she has suffered from PTSD for many years.  She is on state disability and is in the process of applying for social security relief.     Jane is still able to drive her small car so we gave her a voucher for gasoline so she can more easily make it to group counseling sessions rather than walking to the bus stop.

Belinda had pneumonia.    She called us from the hospital to explain why she couldn't come by to see us, that she had received a pledge from St. Paul's Alms Ministry the week before and needed the church network's help to pay her monthly phone bill.   It was her lifeline and her only way of keeping in touch with helpful neighbors.    We verified her plight with both the hospital and St. Paul's, and delivered our pledge by hand into St. Paul's safekeeping. 

Estelle is well educated with an advanced degree earned in her adult years and on which she is still paying student loans of $250 per month.     She is now unable to work.  She is also the sole caretaker of her adult schizophrenic son who lives with her.   Their combined income is $1500 per month which is considered too large for her to qualify for many kinds of  assistance.    She is hoping for forgiveness of her student loan, but until that happens, it is difficult to make ends meet.   We gave her a pledge towards payment of her power bill.   A TV switched on for most hours of the day is essential in the daily routine of her son.

These stories are often difficult to hear, but the women are stoic and struggle along as best they can.  On their behalf, we thank you for your continuing monetary support of our ministry.  Blessings to them--and to you.