Patty is a friend of A Simple House. She wanted to tell her story and talk about her experience of being homeless and living under a bridge for 15 years. Thank you for sharing your story, Patty!
Dear Friends and Family, Spring 2018
Two years ago, Trisha was living underneath a bridge. It was cold, damp, and landscaped with sharp, uneven rocks. She owned a tent with a tower of blankets inside. Trisha is an Air Force veteran, and she was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. She was not standing on street corners asking for change, and she was not a drug addict or an alcoholic. Trisha was part of the homeless population who need the most help, but they don’t receive it because they flat-out reject it. After Simple House missionaries found Trisha, it became our goal to get her into suitable housing. Trisha was hesitant to trust others, and she experienced mental instability that inhibited her from functioning in society. I slowly built up her trust by picking her up from under the bridge and getting to know her better, usually over coffee at McDonald’s. If she seemed willing and open, I promoted getting assistance.
With Trisha’s growing readiness, we worked with her to obtain her birth certificate, social security card, state ID card, and honorable discharge papers. Eventually, Trisha got accepted into a housing program through the VA Medical Center and was able to get into her very own apartment! We held a house-warming party for her to help her get some necessities and fun gifts, too. Trisha has always had joy for the little things in life. When she was homeless, she talked about getting a toaster. She was ecstatic when we surprised her with one. Trisha made her place more homey overtime. She collected decorations and hung art on the walls. In her bathroom, she hung a shower curtain with palm trees on it. She said it reminded her of being outside. She would go so far to say that she actually wanted to sleep outside again, “just one more time.” These comments threw me for a loop. They showed me how mysterious and complex the struggles of the homeless can be. Trisha sought out support groups through the VA that helped her integrate back into society by learning how to socialize with others. Over time, Trisha began going to apartment socials, doing crafts with other residents, and leading her own Bible study.
Today, two years after living under a bridge, Trisha is leading others out on homeless ministry. A couple seminarians stayed at A Simple House in January as part of their poverty immersion. For their formation, we wanted them to interact with the homeless on a personal level. Who better to ask than our friend, Trisha? Without hesitation, Trisha took them to find the homeless on the same streets where she used to live. For the seminarians, the goal was to get out of their comfort zone and engage with the poor. Trisha gave them a perspective that I could never have given them myself. She showed them the homeless through the eyes of someone once homeless. She told them what it was like and revealed practical survival tricks, like how the homeless stay warm.
When Trisha got her own place, I thought her problems would be next to nothing in comparison to her “old life.” However, Trisha is now dealing with a whole new world of problems. When she was outside, she didn’t have to interact with anyone if she didn’t want to, but now she is learning how to face everyday problems like gossip and drama in her apartment building. She also slips back into depression at times. We pray together, and I try to be there for her as best as I can. We have a close friendship. Trisha is a good listener and helps me when I’m going through my own struggles. Her friendship is a true blessing, and she inspires me in my own life.
At A Simple House, our hope is to maintain friendships with people through all stages of life. We want to offer friendship to the homeless even if they are unwilling to receive material help or work on life skills. We also want to continue friendships long after our friends have “made it” in the eyes of society. Through our journey with Trisha, we have experienced both of these seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum. She has taught me a lot about genuine friendship: to be kind, loving, and accepting of a person regardless of progress or success.
It went over so well that Trisha took out our spring break group in March. It was a truly special experience for one of our spring breakers, Courtney. She first met Trisha on spring break two years ago. At that time, we visited Trisha underneath the bridge where she lived. We took her some of Courtney’s homemade gumbo for dinner and sat and chatted with her for a while. The next year on spring break, we visited Trisha in her new apartment, and she hosted us for a women’s Bible study. This year, Trisha got to lead Courtney and a few other students on her own homeless ministry. Trisha shines when witnessing to young people. She asks questions about their future and how they want to witness to the world. Courtney was beaming the whole time; she couldn’t believe how everything had come full circle.
Courtney, Trisha, and Margo: dinner at A Simple House
Thank you for your support,
Check out this article which highlights A Simple House and some other awesome ministries in the DC area. The segment about A Simple House is way at the bottom (just keep on scrolling til you can't scroll anymore). Thanks to Jonah McKeown from the Catholic News Agency for his faith-filled reporting.
Goodbye to our seminarians from Dominican House of Studies, Washington DC and Capuchin College!! Brother Max served with us weekly for the spring semester, and Brother Stephen spent both fall and spring semesters helping us once a week. We took them around on their last days to visit some of their ministry friends and even got to enjoy farewell root beer floats! :) Thank you for serving with us!