A Story of Change

Three Simple Steps to a Changed Life 

by Edd Conboy

Three easy steps. One: a conversation where one person is really listening. Two: a seemingly mundane question. Three: a life changed. Well, actually Step Three might be Step Eight, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Back to the conversation.

A few months ago Terra Pennington, one of BSM’s recently departed (back to the Bay Area to complete seminary, that is) Pastoral Associates, noticed that one of the female guests at Breaking Bread was in some distress.  As Terra was wont to do, she sat with her and listened to what was troubling. In the course of the conversation, Terra learned that this woman – let’s call her Catherine – was a veteran. That might have been the end of it right there. Except if that were the case, there would have been no Step Three, and no Step Eight for that matter.

Instead, Terra took her own step. She took Catherine across the dining room and introduced her to Joe Eastman, our Volunteer Veteran Outreach Coordinator. From there all the other steps began to fall into place.

Realizing that Catherine was in desperate need of housing, Joe called a friend, Dave Kamioner, at the Veterans’ Comfort House to see if he could help out. And of course he and his staff could. With her housing situation more stable, Joe then introduced Catherine to Dianna Schwartz, from the Military Assistance Project. They provide some vital legal services to our veterans. Dianne comes to Breaking Bread once a month now, but the day she met Catherine happened to be her first day at BSM.

Recently Joe heard from Catherine. Along with stable housing, she has been offered a job at a restaurant. The legal and financial issues that were plaguing her are soon to be in the past. Within the next few months her housing situation will improve even more as Catherine is expecting a Section 8 housing voucher very soon. Joe reports that she was ecstatic on the phone.

And as things so often unfold at BSM, it all started with a simple conversation, and seemingly mundane question, and a life changed.

All of us at Broad Street join Catherine in thanking Terra for her help in getting her to Step Three or Step Eight, or at least on to the Next Step in her life.

Update on Catherine’s Steps: “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”

So things were going fairly well for Catherine. She connected with our friends from the veterans’ community. Some of the chaos of being homeless was beginning to recede. She even had a job offer at a restaurant. Things were looking up. As often happens in situations such as this one, there was just one more thing. One small detail. No big deal. Catherine’s new job required that she purchase a pair of shoes. Not just any shoes. Very particular black, non-skid shoes. Shoes that are not cheap to buy.

These are the kind of small details that so often unhinge our guests, that keep them from taking that next step out of poverty and homelessness, and back into a productive life reconnected to the community. Just a pair of shoes. For Catherine it might as well have been a whole new wardrobe. Fortunately, she did not give up. Instead, she called Joe again and explained the situation.

This new wrinkle turned out to be an easy one to smooth out. BSM offered to invest in Catherine’s future, become a sort of venture capitalist, and provide a micro-loan to Catherine that she could repay each week once she had that job. The collateral for this loan was her promise to make those payments. That was something that BSM could take to the bank.

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