Like most 13-year-olds, Elliot had plans for his summer break. It included a cross-country trip with his family and grandparents, spending time at the pool, playing video games and soccer. In addition to his fun plans, he also had to fulfill community service hours as part of his confirmation class requirement at Maidencreek Church.
With some encouragement from his mother, Elliot chose to serve lunch at Opportunity House. “I picked Opportunity House to get the hours I needed,” added Ellliot. Before he arrived, he had no idea what to expect. His assumptions were quickly turned upside down when he arrived.
“There were a lot of older people, and I didn’t expect to see as many kids,” noted Elliot. He expected to see people in their 30s and 40s. “There are more homeless people than you know,” he added. Knowing that many of the children came to Opportunity House with their mother’s was also surprising to Elliot. “I found it interesting that the women and children lived upstairs, and the men lived downstairs. I thought they would all live together.”
One thing that resonated with Elliot is that the clients were just like everyone else. “All the people were very nice to us. They are just going through a rough time.” He noted that the people looked very different from the stereotypical homeless person perception. Clients were clean and looked like people he sees every day.
Elliot interacted with a client who was new to Opportunity House. The client shared with Elliot that he hadn’t eaten in three days. The sandwiches, pickles, chips and cupcakes made by member of Maidencreek Church were well-received by clients. While the group anticipated serving 75 people, they served about 35. “There were less people than we expected. We didn’t realize that some clients went to work and others had appointments during the day,” he said. Any left over food is used for additional lunches or for new clients who arrive at Opportunity House throughout the day.
Senior Resident, Herb shared his story with the group and how he and others become homeless. He shared that clients may have made bad choices and today, they need to undo the repercussions of those decisions. “Many people can’t sustain themselves and become homeless” noted Elliott.
While volunteering at a homeless shelter was not something he expected to do, he believes it was a positive experience. “It’s one of the best things I have ever done. I learned a lot from it.” He recommends serving at Opportunity House to other confirmation classes and groups.
Opportunity House welcomes volunteer groups to serve meals, assemble welcome packs, host a client game night. It’s a great experience for both youth and adults and helps debunk the stereotypes of homeless people. Serving at Opportunity House is personally rewarding and appreciated by our clients.