From Don Fornoff, member of the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness:
A poem called “This Time of Year.”
In the cold of winter 2022-23, a loyal and active member of the Task Force, John Hoyte wrote a poem which was published in the ‘Whatcom Watch,’ the local Bellingham news. He has given permission to print the poem in our diocesan e-news.
This Time of Year
This time of year,
when darkness comes by stealth,
in a land where twilight blunts desire.
This is the state of mind
where pressing worries kill imagination.
In this country I walk the dog
in winter rain,
as wind rustles fallen leaves
My habit is of glancing down alleys,
Looking for someone long gone.
This is a place of homeless tents,
dripping wet, with mud at entry.
From under the flap
a hungry person’s foot protrudes.
This darkened world:
Even here hope dawns.
One act of kindness,
Hot soup and a safety pouch
to keep identity safe,
can rekindle the imagination
and set the world aglow.
John has captured for all of us the meaning of what it is to serve those in need- which is to do
acts of human kindness, to love their neighbors as themselves, even in the face of degradation and pain. John is not simply an observer. He is a vital part of the Alms Ministry of his parish, St. Paul’s, which is part of outreach in Bellingham. Funded entirely by personal contributions, Alms Ministry is open in the Old Parish Hall every Tuesday from 9:00-10:00 am to address the financial and personal needs of individuals seeking help. The ecumenical Emergency Financial Resources includes five other sponsored outreach programs in addition to St. Paul’s, and three others outside of Bellingham in Whatcom County.
The day I visited, there were resource tables manned by three parishioners each, all knowledgeable in community resources to meet the requests of some 14 or 15 visitors. Each visitor had a story to tell. One of the tables was manned by a very helpful volunteer who knew how to obtain IDs for those who needed them. One was a veteran, who was fairly self-reliant. Another was a mother and daughter who wanted bus fare back to the Midwest and home. Another asked for a gas voucher. Still another was living in his vehicle. And one needed help with utility bills. One woman needed help obtaining a hot water heater, having not had hot water for eight months. All parishioners were friendly and welcoming, all good at listening. Before Covid, 40-50 people a day sought assistance. In Whatcom, 75% of these folks are not homeless. All live on the edge. This is the world I visited that day- in a prosperous town such as Bellingham. Thanks be to St. Paul’s, part of a network of churches which has formed an effective way to help.
One more thing- St. Paul’s gives out pouches for keeping papers and IDs safe. Sewn on-site, over 500 have been given out over the past 3-1/2 years. For more information, contact John at email@example.com. And as always, you can always contact Don Fornoff at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about efforts throughout the diocese.