At The Gathering Place (TGP), we are happy to welcome people when they need us most. Feeling truly welcome is essential for someone with no other place to go. Respect is free, but the positive effect is priceless. Many of our guests have shared that they have been ignored, uncared for and forgotten, making them feel worthless and alienated.

Each of our guests has a unique journey. It starts with a conversation and listening to what someone says. I believe this is something that often gets overlooked. Every person has the right to tell their story and for their story to be heard. We make assumptions about how our guests came to be in their situations, perhaps correctly or incorrectly. It doesn’t matter; every individual served through The Gathering Place deserves a chance to be a contributing, valued member of our community.

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed that many of our communities’ most vulnerable people have fallen through the cracks. This has laid bare the desperate need for low-barrier services. We noticed that many of our guests were joining us with conditions beyond what could be met through safe space, companionship and general necessities. We understand that the needs and experiences of our guests at TGP are varied and unique, and we strive to help however we can.

We make sure that regardless of a person’s circumstances, they can have access and support to secure whatever services they need. This broad goal has resulted in service delivery that takes on many different shapes depending on the needs of TGP guests and the greater community. Engagement can mean a simple hug and a warm cup of coffee for some of our guests. For others, it may mean being connected to long-term mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, securing emergency supplies to remain safe while experiencing homelessness, or even arranging food delivery to remote encampments where folks experiencing homelessness stay. We proudly offer a bridge to services through creative thinking, collaboration, and community partnerships to ensure that those in our community who need assistance receive assistance.

At TGP, we share in our guests’ struggles and successes. We celebrate with our guests when they locate and move into an apartment after months or even year(s)-long searches. For many, it is the first time they have a place to call home, which is a sentiment that brings tears to their eyes. We are honored to sit with our guests through their emotions of fear when it seems like life is just changing too fast, whether for better or worse.

We often hear our guests express fears of moving into a new home after living outdoors for a long time. The fears stem from a place of not wanting to return to an experience that has been so hard. We are fortunate to aid our guests in meeting their goals when they find themselves without natural support. We are grateful to our guests when they entrust us to help them pursue interests that will benefit themselves and others, such as starting meetings for individuals struggling with substance use disorder. We are proud to stand with our guests when they struggle with challenging power dynamics and discrimination. Our guests have been called every name in the book and told to get out and move along. We are so profoundly fortunate to be trusted by our community to share in these times of vulnerability, success, defeat, joy, heartbreak, and triumph.

Our TGP community draws inspiration from itself through the incredible personal connections we can make with one another. These connections make the work of TGP possible. The strong personal relationships we share at TGP make it possible to support each other as we strive to achieve our goals. It is truly a privilege to share progress and milestones with our guests. These shared experiences are the greatest strength of The Gathering Place.

At TGP, we protect our guests’ privacy and experiences. Still, we also wish to share our space, unique approach, and mission with others interested in helping. If the idea of being a part of our effort and diverse community appeals to you, please feel free to join us. We encourage collaboration between all patrons of TGP, including our volunteers, staff and guests. We are always eager to make new connections, strengthen existing relationships, and bring our message of compassion and assistance to our community. We hope you will join us in this effort, whether within our space or in your own large or small ways from afar.

Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local nonprofit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community.

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