By Stan Friedman
SHORELINE, WA (October 4, 2012) – Susan Talbot remembers the pain and struggles of her family living in a camper mounted on the back of an old pickup when she was 16 years old in the 1970s.
“We parked wherever we could find a broad spot on a country road, bathed in public restrooms, ate food from a grocery deli for 18 months,” she says. “We know personally how difficult it is to live out of a vehicle, without the availability of heat, running water or a place to fix a hot meal. We know what it’s like to be confronted and chased off as vagrants.”
That memory spurred Talbot and her 85-year-old mother to participate in the Shoreline Covenant Church Sleep-Out that raised funds for Jacob’s Well, a transitional housing program for homeless women and children located three miles from the church. The two would be “homeless” again to benefit other mothers and children needing a place to live.
Fifty women slept in tents or cars on the church parking lot September 21 and raised $14,000 in pledges to pay for paint for the apartments. The church held a sleep-out in 2010 and raised money to purchase wood framing for the housing, which is slated to be completed in June 2013.
The women demonstrated their eagerness to participate. Some of them showed up at 3 p.m. for the event that didn’t officially start until 7 p.m. Susan Camerer, the director of Vision House, the organization which is building Jacob’s Well, also spent the night and shared how women living in similar housing had their lives changed.
The evening included reading testimonials from women who had been helped by Vision House’s similar ministry in Renton, Washington, as well as worship and prayer around a fire pit at the center of the parking lot.
Later that night, as some of the participants were turning in for bed, a woman who lives down the street from the church came by to share how hard it had been to be a single mother of a one and two-year-old. She donated $100.
A fourth-grade girl, Sidney, had been disappointed that children were not allowed to sleep out, but she still showed up at 7 p.m. with $40 in change that she had saved.
“I get tears in my eyes just thinking about what this event means for us, for our community, and for the women who will very soon have a safe and warm home where they can tuck their children into bed and do homework and cook meals,” one woman reflected.
The sleep-out also was a milestone moment for Pastor Erika Haub. “This was my first night away from my 10-month old, Hope,” she said. “I will be proud to tell her the reason why when she gets older – that the reason we spent our first night apart was so that a baby like her would someday soon have a safe and warm place to sleep.”
Potter said she and her mother were especially excited about that future, having previously toured the ongoing construction. “As we toured the partially completed apartments at Jacob’s Well, mother said over and over, ‘Oh, how wonderful,’ imagining herself as a homeless mother invited to move into a private and secure two-bedroom unit.”