Letter: My night at Hesed House

By on July 9, 2009

On a recent Friday night, I had the opportunity to share in a unique experience. The staff and supporters of Hesed House staged a camp out on their front yard, showing passersby and those gathered what the future of the homeless could look like if the proposed DHS budget cuts take place.

We listened to the success stories of those people whose lives have been changed by Hesed House. We shared stories around a makeshift campfire, helping children as young as five make s’mores, knowing that later their mother would be taking them inside Hesed House, their “home” for the night. Most of us then retreated to our tents and sleeping bags except for two young men who chose to sleep under the stars, experiencing fully the concept of having no roof to call our own.

At 58, I had some reservations about sleeping on the ground in an unfamiliar urban setting, but I could think of no better way to show my support for Ryan Dowd and the staff of Hesed House. I’m really glad I did. I got to know Ryan and his terrific staff. I got to see firsthand the respect and care they have for their guests. I got to hear their stories. I got to eat the same breakfast they received that morning. Then I got to go home, shower, go about my Saturday not having to worry about where I would sleep that night.

Unfortunately, the future of Hesed’s guests is very much at risk. We need our elected leaders to get to work to fix our state’s budget problems so that people like the guests at Hesed House, the women and children at Mutual Ground, the men and women in recovery at Gateway and the rest of our communities’ most vulnerable residents can continue to receive the services they need. It is time our leaders need to realize that this system is broken and needs to be fixed.

My daughter asked me if my overnight experience on Hesed’s front yard was an “eye opener?” I knew, before Friday, what Ryan and his crew do on a daily basis. What the experience did do was give me a greater appreciation for all those who serve the neediest among us. Thank you to Hesed for the opportunity. I would invite all our leaders to spend a night at Hesed House or an evening at Mutual Ground before they get back to work on the budget and see for themselves what those dollars actually mean in peoples’ lives.

Jerry Murphy
Executive Director, MH & MR Services, Inc.
Mental Health and
Mental Retardation Services, Inc.