Debbie Roe has just started as Swing Shift Manager for Interfaith Sanctuary. Before that, she was a volunteer for Sanctuary. Debbie is in the criminal justice program at Boise State. I sat down with her and had a chance to get to learn more about her experience both as a volunteer and as a new staff member. I am thankful for the opportunity.
1. How did you first get involved with Interfaith Sanctuary and why did you continue?
“I started out in a learning service class. I had to take some time off because of family responsibility but started up again because of another service learning class. This time it was a little bit different. It was the right timing I guess. It really got to my conscience. I wondered why I hadn’t been aware of it before and I don’t know what it really is. I guess it’s the full impact of what Sanctuary means. That had a far greater impact on me the second time around. It had bothered me that on my own I wasn’t aware that homelessness was such an issue in the community. I fell in love with Sanctuary. This time it was far more personal.”
“I fell in love with the people and wondered how I could not help. At the end of the day you get a far bigger reward than what you give. They are such a great group of people and misjudged by the community. You just see one side and that’s the exterior. You don’t see the interior. That’s what you get when you volunteer, you get to see the interior. That’s where the reward comes in. These are some phenomenal people and how would you know? I get to meet them and serve them in some way. I get to make a portion of their day a little better. I have always felt that you gain more in life from sharing. There is more to life than letting it go by and just staying inside your bubble. If you don’t explore these opportunities you miss a whole realm of possibilities. I’ve seen others care for people and those people were close to me. Sometimes we get so caught up in our problems, we miss that others have something maybe far greater going on their lives. You go help somebody else and it does good for you and for somebody else. It forces you to look at things differently.”
2. What do you think of your new surroundings?
“I like that everybody can go to Sanctuary. It’s not based on your religion or who you are. They just welcome people and ask how they can help. There are so many different kinds of people who work and volunteer there. That to me is fantastic. There is a camaraderie that binds them all together. They may have their disagreements but they stand behind one another. That’s refreshing. Being there makes you focus on what’s really important. I think you become a better person overall. You become more aware of your neighbors and how life affects everybody around you.”
“When I’m doing the check in, it’s like my kids are coming home. I want to know they’re healthy and doing alright. I try to ask guests how their day is going. I want them to know that someone cares. I think they all crave that a little bit. I always try to make it more personal. It’s my personal time with them. It bonds you together. It makes the connection real for everybody. I feel a strong mother instinct there. I want the best for them. I want to help them and to make sure they don’t have to go through life alone. I’m there in the moment and I’m going to make it’s the best night I can for all of us. I hope they feel that. I hope they can get the sense that it’s not about a paycheck, it’s about them.”
3. In a general sense, why this line of work?
“I think that, personally, the community in general misjudges people. They overlook the things that happen in their lives that trip them up. They think it’s all drugs or alcohol. That’s a narrow-minded perspective. They don’t realize that it could happen to any of us at any given moment. We have seen it happen to more and more people but they don’t put themselves there. I think it is a big issue. I don’t know why there is not more attention to it. I don’t fully understand why the community doesn’t step up and realize that the facilities are not there to fully help someone. Incarceration doesn’t cure someone’s drinking problem. When you talk to people and hear their stories, reality hits you and it’s often heartbreaking.”
“There is so much pain. It makes me more aware of what I would do. Society sees people in their current state but there is much more to the story. Sometimes it’s too much at one time. Things aren’t always what they seem. I think that we can become judgmental and we can get a misconception about what it means to be homeless. It requires so much effort and time to get housing and a job. That’s a big mountain to climb. It’s got to be so frustrating to try and surmount that. They don’t know where to start and the resources just are not there.”
“It’s a lengthy process and I think you can get beat down. You can get to the point of believing that a better life really isn’t going to happen. It’s very hard to really get a second chance. I think a lot of people would make it if they had a second chance. I hope that people know the good qualities of this segment of our community. There is a preconception of what homelessness means and I think a lot of the time that’s wrong.”
By Barry Franklin, PR Team Writer