Mary’s Place is a refuge for women and families that each day feeds, clothes, and shelters more than 700 individuals each day, with more 700 different reasons having brought them to one of our eight sets of doors. I work at the Mary’s Place Day Center for single homeless women. At the Day Center, we provide an amazing service; everyday we feed and clothe 70-120 women of all sorts, shapes, and sizes. We connect them to the resources they need and give them the bus tickets to get there. We provide showers and necessary accoutrements, computer access, and a place to make a phone call. We open our doors every day to provide space for women to shed rain-soaked layers and slump off the weight of their bags to float to an ever-reliable fountain of coffee. We schedule appointments with our in-house housing and employment specialists, we scoop out steaming ladles of food for breakfast and lunch until every stomach is full. Most importantly, though, is that every day we provide what many of our guests are most hungry for—connection, and dignity.
When I do check-ins for a program we partner with at Mary’s Place, one of the questions is “Do you have any strong and supportive relationships to help you get where you need to be?” The answer is often a pause, and then “well, Mary’s Place.” As if they mean to say, “Of course it’s here.” For so many women, Mary’s Place is their community. They come here not just for their physical survival, but for the survival of their sense of humanity. We are the place where they are reminded that they are worthy. Where they can knit and bead and share and receive a smile and a check-in. Where they know they’re seen, even if only because someone remembers their name. Remembers that they’ve just been reconnecting with their child or sibling they’ve been out of touch with for years but found because someone helped them to set up a Facebook or email account on our computers.
Our women are the ones so often ignored while they try to keep hold of all their belongings on the bus, or walking from day shelter to night shelter. But here, they are reminded that they are still worthy. Worthy of trips to the ballet and the tulip fields in spring, and of the hours of staff and community volunteers and partners that keep our doors open. The women who come through the doors of the Day Center are loved, and we believe (not in part because our guests tell us so) that it’s that love and the community that forms around that love that is the true core of Mary’s Place. It’s a pleasure to be a part of such a precious haven in our city, and I’d encourage any who feel moved to volunteer with us—in our kitchen, behind our hygiene desk, painting nails, teaching watercolor—or to reach out to create partnered activities with your business or organization. There are so many ways to be involved, and so many women, children, and families whose lives will be brightened by your willingness to join us.
Heather Ellis, Mary’s Place Day Center Staff