Dec. 11, 2013
This past weekend Trinity students, in partnership with Central Lutheran Church of Seattle, hosted an emersion experience for high school students. This annual weekend long event, called Let Justice Roll, focused on homelessness and was entitled SHELTER: People, Places, and Politics. The article below was written by Robin Stillmaker, a sophomore studying Children, Youth & Family Studies who also works as a student assistant for the CYFS department and its Children, Youth and Family Center. Stillmaker helped with coordination of the weekend and also participated in the event.
Even though I am only halfway through my sophomore year at Trinity, I am constantly amazed at how many hands-on opportunities this incredible college provides for its students. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be helping plan and run an event like Let Justice Roll while still in college.
As assistant to the CYFS department and the Children, Youth and Family Center, I had the opportunity to work directly with members of Central Lutheran Church to plan this event. After countless hours of meetings, conference calls, emails and more, we finally pulled it off!
Friday evening, after driving through Seattle traffic, groups of teenagers with their youth leaders from various churches around the greater Seattle area arrived at the parish hall of Central Lutheran Church to begin an unforgettable weekend. That first evening, we did some icebreaker games and watched the Sojourner’s movie The Line in order to prepare our minds for the weekend.
Trying to sleep on the hard floors of a church proved to be difficult; I tossed and turned all night. Imagine the shock the following morning when we were fed a small cold breakfast and were then “kicked-out of our shelter” and onto the streets of Seattle. We traveled around in small groups, each group creating their own persona of a homeless person.
The goal was for us to find services that our person could use. Some of the resources my group found included the public restrooms inside Pacific Place and Westlake Center, food samples at the Pike Place Market, and The Armory at Seattle Center, where we searched tables for scrap food. It was difficult to find services open on a Saturday. Even more difficult was finding services that our person could access, since many organizations serving the homeless turn people away because of their gender, age or sexual orientation.
Saturday afternoon, the groups met back at Central Lutheran Church for a rotating panel. We had the opportunity for some Q and A time with various professionals who work with homeless people. After that, we broke off into different small groups and served dinner to homeless people at various Compass Housing Alliance locations. This, for me, was a real eye-opener. My group served at Mary’s Place, a shelter for women and children. It was intense and sad to see young children who are homeless. We even met a 23-week old baby. These children had no voice in their situation—they just happened to be unfortunate.
That evening it was hard to sleep thinking about the names and faces of so many different homeless people whom I encountered earlier in the day. I was inside a church, protected from the wind and cold, while many of those I had met were sleeping on the streets in the freezing temperatures.
As I reflect back, I am not sure what this experience means for my life going forward, but I am grateful for the privilege to have a better understanding of what it is like to be homeless. And I’m even more grateful for the chance to be a college student and receive an education that many of those I met are not so fortunate to have.
Generous funding from Thrivent Financial helped make LJR possible.