I need to talk about something that is very heavy on my heart. I have been waiting for the right time to come out and say this because I wanted to be fully informed on the matter. But the truth is I will never know the ins and outs of it because there are so many levels and truly no right answers to my questions.
One of my core memories involves the trip my family took to Austin when Hurricane Ike hit in 2008. When arriving into the city, I saw a man pushing his belongings around in a shopping cart. The homeless population in Austin was the largest I had ever seen. I don’t know why it affected me so deeply at that moment when it wasn’t necessarily a new experience to see someone who was less fortunate than myself.
I wish I could find my old journal because I remember writing about the type of sadness I had never felt in my entire life. That was the first time I felt a deep empathy for the homeless. And then I got older, and it isn’t that I didn’t care. It is just that I cared more about myself and my own endeavors than the man who was begging for money on the side of the highway. I tried to give change every now and then but there were many times I would turn away and try not to make eye contact. I did not want to face that emotion. And to be completely honest, up until recently I have found myself to be guilty of looking the other way.
I recently was given the opportunity to work for a resource center. For those of you who do not know what that entails- There is a network of organizations in the area that service those in need of housing, rent, utility, food, identification, medical, domestic and substance abuse, counseling, social security/disability, and many other types of assistance. At MWRC (Marcelous Williams Resource Center), we have partnerships with Texas Health and Human Services, whom most people know of as the service that provides food stamps and Medicaid. We also are connected with The Love Network of Baytown, Hearts and Hands, Bay Area Homeless Services, Baytown Housing Authority, and a handful of other community serving organizations that assist those in need of housing, food, job, and financial assistance. What I do at my job includes case management, helping our clients apply for and learn about those resources that are available to them.
Now, I still have so much learning to do about those resources and really I am just a young pup. You should see my superiors. The knowledge and capacity for giving they have in their hearts is so amazing to me. I am truly blessed to be learning from them. And the way this opportunity fell into my lap was just too perfect for me to say that God wasn’t involved.
Not even a year ago, I quit a job that was probably the most stable job I had ever worked. I was working as a full time employee with full benefits, but there was something inside me that told me it just was not right. So I left and started serving tables. Once I made that decision, it felt like a tower moment for me. Everything else in my life came crashing down. To say I was heartbroken is an understatement. But it was a necessary change. It took that heartbreak to make me want to change my life for the better. I couldn’t keep floating through life without recognizing the larger purpose that was meant for me.
I decided to go back to school and also to start praying again. I prayed for peace. I prayed for stability. I prayed for healing. I wrote down my prayers. On Oct. 1, 2022, I wrote down my prayer. To summarize it, I prayed that God would place an opportunity in my path that I knew was from Him and I could not pass up. A few days later, I went to a community event. A woman named Ramonia Williams walked up to inform me about the nonprofit Resource Center she and her husband Eddie run. I asked her if she was looking for volunteers and she told me she was looking to fill a position. Well, lucky me, I was looking to fill a position, myself. After the interviewing process, I had a new job and I had no clue what I was getting myself into. And I mean that in the best way. God was definitely listening to my prayers.
I was hired as a Client Experience Specialist, starting off by assisting Ms. Tammy Guidry, Director of Homeless Outreach Services. What I have learned so far is how wrong my perception of the homeless community has been. Yes, a percentage of the homeless population is begging for money on the streets. But my goodness, that is such a tiny percentage when you think of just how many people are actually homeless without a place to call their own. Some of our clients are young moms (like myself) who have nowhere to go and/or are living with their friends or family until they can get on their feet. Some of the homeless are living in their cars. Some are the elderly who are barely surviving off of what they get from social security/disability— and that’s if they even qualify. Some of these people are college graduates, former CEOs, veterans, teachers, artists, accountants— people just like you and me. Life happens fast, and some people don’t see it coming. Then they end up down on their luck. It can really happen to anyone. And I really hate to say this, but the homeless population is growing, especially in this area. Unfortunately, even though we are fortunate to have the resources we do have, we need more. Not only that, but we need more people who care and more people who are aware of how to help those in need.
In the short time I have been doing what I am doing, the temptation to give up and walk away has been very strong. But I keep hearing a voice in the back of my head saying the name Esther. It reminds me of the short book in the Bible— the story of a Jewish queen who is put into a position to help save her people from genocide. In the book of Esther, God isn’t mentioned once, but His providence is evident the whole time. When I read about how a girl who was afraid of her position was able to make a huge difference, all I can think about is how I was put here for a reason. Through the self-doubt, the voices telling me maybe I am not worthy of serving these people, the struggles I am facing on my own that distract me from the larger picture, I keep hearing the 14th verse of the 4th chapter of Esther “Who knows, perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?”
I definitely can’t say that I have the power to save all of these people. Sometimes I barely can save myself. I am not too different from those that I am trying to help. And if it weren’t for the help I have received from my friends and family, I could easily end up sleeping in my car or unable to feed myself and my child. Which is why I feel like God placed me here. Because I know what it is like to not know what the next step to take in order to get me on my own two feet is. And I love and care for so many people that I know love and care for me. So with that being said, I’m asking for those who love and care about me, and even those of you who do not even know me to do your research. Look up what resources are available in your communities, ask your local churches how to get involved, donate money to food pantries, and volunteer. And if you don’t have the time or the money to give, spread awareness. In order to make a difference, people first have to know about the issue at hand. Then, those who have the ability to give can do their part.
I know times aren’t easy for any of us. Money is tight and sometimes it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I choose to believe that even though we can’t see it, the light is there. Faith of a mustard seed, right? Thank you for reading this far. And thank you to my friends and family who haven’t let me give up and have helped me continue to see the light.
Tammy Guidry, Director of Homeless Services at Marcelous Williams Resource Center is located at the Sterling Library every Tuesday from 1 to 4 p.m., helping to serve those who are or are at risk of becoming homeless by assisting with identification and birth certificates, food assistance, housing, and social security/disability needs. For more information, volunteer opportunities, or if you know someone who is in need of homeless services or other social service needs, contact MWRC at 855-449-1472 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook. If you would like to donate to MWRC, use the scan code below:
Your feedback and personal stories are much appreciated. Please email Elizabeth at ElizabethMWRC@gmail.com to share your thoughts.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.