Ready to Rent

We’re starting our New Year off with a fledgling program we’re calling “Ready to Rent”. Our newest associate, Stefanie Mayes, has been working with people who have obtained or are obtaining their section 8 vouchers, and spends time calling each place to make sure our folks are still on the list, and how close they are to being renters. This work has been ongoing, and as it evolves, we’ve found some things that simply “go together”.

Stefanie also checks for available rentals, be it rooms or apartments for people who are ready to rent. She’s working on a list of private landlords as well, and we’re starting from base on this list- all previous lists available are long outdated, so if you know a private landlord who would like to fill their space, please email Stefanie here, and we’ll see if we can make a good match for them. This is a fledgling program, and we’re starting from square one, learning as we go.

We often find that paperwork can be daunting for people. It’s confusing. It can be overwhelming. It’s a lot more manageable with a friend to sit with you, look up things that are unfamiliar, and help you figure out what you need to be a future tenant. Some of what Stefanie does is as simple as navigating rental applications with folks. It’s simple, just requiring patience, a computer, and the ability to talk one person through, but it’s invaluable to people navigating housing for the first time. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.

We’ve discovered, along this journey, that when people get housing, they’re excited, and we want to help them! We get a lot of donations, food, clothing, and housewares. Stefanie has started taking inventory and putting together those housewares for our folks who get housing, and it’s a blessing- there is so much to keep up with, we realized that this was a department that we were sorely lacking. I know where we keep towels, but I couldn’t tell you what size sheets we have or exactly where they are, what plates match, and how many sets of cutlery we have. I’m unsure of how many toaster ovens and blenders we have. We needed a person for this.

We want to be with you at every step of your journey. We’ll transition with you through the shelter and tents, to those first job interviews, through that first paycheck, to that first room for rent, to your first set of kitchen pans. We want to walk this journey with you, and if nothing else, as Hugh used to say, “We can’t pay your light bill, but we will sit with you in the dark”. We’ll walk with you through the path.

Stefanie Mayes, “Ready to Rent” program leader.

Welcome Stefanie!

We are pleased to introduce everyone to our new Operations Associate, Stefanie Mayes!  Stefanie has a passion for food and helping others.  She and her husband hold a fish fry once a month, where her green beans have become a thing of legend.  She enjoys helping Chef Billy in the kitchen and the community members love everything that she creates back there.

Stefanie was previously a Property Manager for The Magnolias, which is a housing complex for people with disabilities who are approved for Section 8 housing.  She is extremely helpful with helping our folks navigate Section 8 housing once they attain their vouchers, and helping people find rooms for rent that they can afford.  Her focus, here at the center, will be assisting people with finding rental properties.  She’s already hit the ground running by finding a room for one of our housed people who was about to lose his housing.  If we can PREVENT someone from becoming homeless, it truly changes a life.

Her desire to help others makes Stefanie an excellent fit here at the center.  Before being a property manager, her career was managing restaurants and bars, which we’re found to be an excellent background for managing the constant movement here at Love Wins- we have to be fast on our feet, good problem solvers, and have the ability to interact with all different types of personalities.  The community already loves her; I knew that they would.

One year ago, I first interviewed Stefanie for a future position here at the center, but we didn’t have the money to hire anyone else at that time.  This past month, I took a leap of faith, to ask the world for forgiveness instead of permission.  I’m so glad that we did, because looking back, I can’t imagine how we got along without her.

Stefanie needs a laptop of her own to be able to look up rental properties and resources for people.  We, being a non-profit, can buy a refurbished one for $300.  If you would like to donate towards our folks transitioning out of homelessness, and our Homeless Prevention Program, please click here, and feel free to leave us a note about your passion.  Giving Stefanie the tools to help our folks be successful is so important, our ability to do good is only limited by the tools we have.  Come on down and meet Stefanie, take a tour of the Community Center, and see all of the new things that we’re doing here.  We would love to have you!!!

Big Wins in Peer Support

I have to share with the Universe what the Wins of Love Wins look like from my eyes as a Peer Support Specialist

Yesterday I had a guy who had been clean for 5 months and was struggling to find a safe place to stay clean and sober. I made a phone call to the Healing Transitions and spoke with the Peer Support Specialist and made arrangements for him to be able to go and get in their program. This gentleman showed up this morning with all the praise about how amazing it is over there and that he finally felt like he was in the right spot to stay clean. I was so thrilled.

After I spoke with this guy about the HT I checked the mail and there was a letter for the man that I had been trying to get enrolled into Wake Tech. HE WAS ACCEPTED!! He gets to start his education this spring! He was so happy that we both broke out into tears. We have time to find him the things he needs to attend school, and help him better his life!

Followed by that, I saw a young lady that had been having a hard time getting to her appointment to get her back on her meds. She had been looking very sad and down for the past week. I made sure the other day that she had what she needed to get to her appointment. When she walked up this morning she had a huge smile on her face and tears in her eyes. She made it to her appointment had gotten her meds. She was back to her old self and it was beautiful to see! She thanked me for helping her out and I told her that that’s why I love my job!

I know first hand what it feels like to be overlooked and ignored because you’re homeless. Hugh Hollowell acknowledged me when I was homeless. He saw that I wanted to do something about my situation and he gave me a chance to do that. Just being there and understanding me was enough that I was able to stand up and do something different. Because of that relationship he built with me, I am now able to work here at the center and give back what he so freely gave to me: hope. He gave me hope that I wasn’t going to have to be alone and homeless forever, and now I’m able to share that hope with others.

I’ve cried alot this morning already. Happy tears. Love truly Wins.

Our Chef Billy Needs Housing

*Billy’s story is told with his consent and encouragement. 

When Blu graduated and moved from being head of our Nutrition Program to our Peer Support Specialist, there was a void to fill, but luckily, Billy had just started volunteering with us! That was over 8 months ago now, and he’s been here, every day, cooking the most delicious food that anyone has tasted.  He’s famous for his sauces, gravies, meatloaf, potato salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, ribs, tuna cakes, bean soup, saffron rice- actually, he’s famous for everything he cooks.

Billy’s Birthday Lunch

Billy turned 50 this week and held a huge lunch party where he made all of his favorite foods- ribs, roast with potatoes and carrots, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, Billy Beans and stewed cabbage with ham bones.  It was DELICIOUS!

Something that people don’t know about Billy, is that he’s an unhoused person, and has been since 1997.  He gets disability because of a terrible work accident that left him partially blind, but it’s not enough to get him any housing.  He’s been up for section 8 housing twice, and both times could not find an apartment that passed inspection.  Around 8,000 people receive section 8 vouchers, but there are only about 2,000 available units in Raleigh.  It’s a tough time to be a disabled person who sleeps in the park.

Billy and I at the Food Bank.

Billy gets about $800/month in disability benefits.  The difference between Billy being housed and not is a part-time job that he can do that doesn’t take away his benefits, as he as also been hit by a bus once and a car recently.  He works here at Love Wins like it is his full-time job.  He is treated as staff, however, we haven’t been able to pay him.  We want to change that.  We want to provide a salary for Billy and find an apartment or living situation that costs no more than $500/mo. that is on a bus line so that he can get around.  These shouldn’t be lofty goals, but they seem to be these days.

In Billy’s ideal world, his housing would be safe and quiet.  He keeps to himself and likes to keep his things tidy and in good condition.  Billy has mastered the art of keeping things safe and in good condition outdoors- he could teach a class on it.  It would be manageable with his current disability income plus an additional income if he could have that.  As Hugh said to me yesterday on the phone “If someone can keep themselves so together living outside, if they had an apartment, they could rule the world!”

Birthday morning!

Billy has never asked for anything, but he really wants a job.  Here is what I propose: can we raise a salary for Billy?  Even just $100/week would make it so that Billy would have a chance to be able to be housed at current market value somewhere.  If we could raise $400/mo. to be able to provide that for him, it could only go up from there.  He can’t make more than $800/mo. without losing his disability, and right now, that’s a really important factor.

I’ve started the paperwork, and we may have to ask the Universe for forgiveness instead of permission.  If you would like be a monthly contributor towards our Nutrition Program and a salary for Billy, please click here, and don’t hesitate to leave us a note!!!  We want to know that you support Billy, our nutrition program, and creating a salary and housing that directly affects one person that you really do know.  We can end homelessness for one person this month.  I believe it.

*Billy is one of my closest friends.  If you know of an apartment, house, or living situation that is safe, clean and quiet, please don’t hesitate to contact me at . I want the best for our Billy, and I want him to not be sleeping in that park anymore.  

A Whole New World

I spent a good amount of my life just “dealing” with my eye sight. I had noticed there were problems, but nothing I couldn’t handle by just closing one eye or squinting really hard. I was prescribed eye glasses when I was in elementary school but refused to wear them because I hated the way I looked in them. There were plenty of times I couldn’t see but I just didn’t say anything. I knew that it would come down to having to get my eyes checked and get glasses again.

Through my adolescence and adult life, I had a few different pairs of glasses, and it seemed to help but over time I either lost them or didn’t wear them. I was in my mid-twenties when I started to notice that I was starting to see a gray spot in my left eye. I didn’t want to address it because my father had a blind spot in his eye, and it made me nervous that I’d suffer the same fate.

I was blessed to have gotten this amazing job at Love Wins, but that also entails me having to read e-mails and look at tiny numbers on a daily basis. It became more and more difficult to deal with my sight. As I was sitting at my desk one day, Hugh asked me why I was sitting so close to my computer screen to read a blog. It was time to tell the truth.

I started to explain the situation to him and I could see the look on his face. He seemed stunned that I had been handling this, and not saying anything to anyone about how bad my sight really was. That afternoon he took me to make an appointment to have my eyes checked again. It scared me. I was worried that I was going to be told I was going to have to wear an eye patch to read or something like that.  I made an appointment for the next day.

When I showed up for my appointment the next day it was a mixture of excitement and stress. The doctor took me back and began to tell me that it sounded like a problem that could be fixed. As he went through the routine test I began to see clearer and clearer. I honestly teared up and began to cry as he got to the end of the test. I could see! I wasn’t going to have to see a spot for the rest of my life. He informed me that I had a severe astigmatism in my left eye that reflects the light differently than normal shaped eyes would. With just the right lens, and a prescription, I didn’t have to worry about my sight.

A few days later, Hugh and I went to pick up my glasses. I cried, again. It was an emotional thing to see the leaves on a tree. The shape of the clouds. Seeing pebbles in the parking lot, and they had definition to them. I started reading the serial numbers on the tires of the car next to us at the stop light. I had to refrain from staring because the man in the car wasn’t understanding the amazement that I was going through.

Since I’ve had my glasses, I’ve read aloud morning e-mails from the Universe to Alyssa from the back of my office space because I can. I’m blessed to have those moments now. I see things more clearly than I ever have. And thankfully I don’t have to wear an eye patch…

Our campaign this month is “The Eyes of March”.  If you would like to help us help others experience the amazing clarity of sight, please donate here, and please bring us reading glasses and prescription glasses that we can find new owners for.  

Jersey in his newly adopted glasses. He’s been smiling ever since.

Meet Pastor Robert

Pastor Robert Parrish was born in Bryson City, NC. He has been legally blind since birth. He is the second oldest of 4 boys. At age 6 he started attending the Gov. Morehead School for the Blind. He was on the track team, President of Student Government and graduated 2nd in his class.

After high school he attended Appalachian State for his undergrad degree of BS in Speech Communications and minored in psychology. He was heavily involved in the Baptist Student Union on campus as well as the Speech and Debate team. He received his masters of Divinity from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC where he was also involved in the student government. He did residencies at UNC Hospitals and Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, TX as a chaplain.

He is currently President of the Wake Federation of the Blind here in Wake County, NC. This group helps advocate for the rights for those who are blind as well as help our legislature. He is involved with the Clergy at the Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh, NC.
When he has free time he enjoys reading, playing guitar, practicing yoga and tai chi and plays basketball.

Pastor Robert has been a volunteer with Love Wins Community Engagement Center for about 5 years. He heard about us through a former employee who was a guest speaker at his church. The sermon moved his heart to find out more about us. He enjoys being directly involved with folks that are going through a rough patch and lending his ear and prayers.

I have enjoyed seeing Pastor Robert on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He usually greets me with a good Amish joke since I am Mennonite (not Amish, more on that another time). I enjoy seeing him engage with the community members and watch relationships form and grow week by week. On Thursdays we “get our Chi on” as he leads a beginners Tai Chi class in the common room. Whether he is leading 1 person or a dozen, all are invited and feel a sense of accomplishment when finished.

No matter what is happening at the Center on Tuesdays or Thursdays, Pastor Robert always brings his infectious smile, contagious laugh and plenty of hugs for everyone.

If you are ever wondering what to do on a Thursday morning, please stop by and join Pastor Robert for Tai Chi at 10:30. We look forward to seeing you!

Meet Blu!

We knew that when the time was right to hire someone, it would be someone we already knew. Someone who knew and loved our community. A person who had given of themselves, selflessly, through volunteer work and dedication, expecting nothing in return. A true believer in the mission of Love Wins and our 6 principles of hospitality. We asked the universe to send us our person, and the universe responded with Blu.

“Blu was made for this job! She’s a perfect fit,” Jill* said as she was gathering her things to leave for the day. I couldn’t agree more. Blu’s title is “Operations Associate”, because it’s the broadest title we could think of for the wide swath of talent that she brings to the table here at the center. We have a busy winter ahead and a newly implemented meal plan.

Hugh overheard me tell another volunteer “Check with Blu, she heads up our nutrition program”, and he said,“We have a nutrition program now? That sounds official. And fancy.” He’s right, it does, and we’re all really proud of it.

Blu is easy to talk to and has a natural talent for listening and really hearing people, it’s no surprise that she would like to be a substance abuse counselor. Our folks love her and trust her, often seeking her counsel to talk about challenges they face as well as celebrating their wins with her.

She’s profound in her wisdom and I learn something new from her daily. Her practical camping knowledge is invaluable when trying to meet the needs of people living outside during cold weather, and if there is anything more needed in this community than an outdoor enthusiast, I don’t know what it is yet.

Her resume is as fearless as she is, from dancing with the Moscow Ballet, to apprenticing as a body piercer, to learning to frame houses, working her way up and managing her own framing crew; she’s as strong as she is kind, and that’s Love Wins material. Welcome to the family, Blu, we’re so lucky to have you!

*Names of community members are changed to protect privacy

On the Bus

The first of hopefully many blog posts by Clelia Sweeney, our Jesuit Volunteer Corps staff member:

You can’t hide on the bus. You can deaden your expression, look at everyone’s knees, angle your body into the window, but none of it will stop you from having to share space with strangers. One evening after work I was riding the bus downtown to catch another bus home, and was horrified to realize that I was crying. A text I’d gotten while at work had upset me and it was just then sinking in. All I could do was stare fixedly out the window and try to control the shaking of my shoulders as I listened to the banter coming from the front of the bus. There was flirting, gossiping, commiserating, and harmonizing once a couple of ladies starting singing “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” They were the regulars of the evening #19 bus. It would have been a vibrant, fun scene to witness if I didn’t just want to disappear.

Riding the bus makes you realize that privacy is a privilege. Driving a car by yourself, silently gliding past crowds of people, seems radically insulated in comparison. You can’t hide while standing on the side of the road waiting for the bus to arrive, wobbling on your ankles as you tilt over the curb and peer down the road to watch for its approach. You can steel your eyes not to catch anyone else’s, look into a book or phone in your hand, or stare down the cars as they surge past. If you’re female sometimes cars will slow down and bray out something about your appearance, making you feel even more exposed. You will get hit on at the bus stop, but you will also have the most neighborly conversations you’ve had since living in Raleigh.

I’m accustomed to buses; I rode them out of necessity while living in Chicago, New York City, Massachusetts, and even Vermont. I’m in a year-long service program that encourages me to live in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. But I’m also new to this work, and by the end of the day I’m at the end of my emotional rope. It can be dispiriting when your transportation home takes 45 minutes instead of the 10 it would by car. If I am able to get a ride from someone I know, I will. While being in a constant state of solicitousness doesn’t feel great, it has also put me a little closer to understanding our community and how it feels to have to ask for things you need to get through your day.

Cabs are forbidden fruit, which I have succumbed to on a handful of occasions. It’s especially unpractical because I am only paid $100 a month through my service program. But when the bus doesn’t run as planned, when I miss a bus and have to wait for an hour for the next one, or just when I’ve had a long day and feel emotionally exhausted, I have occasionally called for a cab. The first time I took one home from work I was standing at the bus-stop with a mom and her three toddlers, who were shouting and running up and down the sidewalk. After a while, we both noticed and read a sign taped to the bus stop pole, stating that the bus had been re-routed due to construction and would not stop there until January. She called her friend to come and pick her up, but her friend couldn’t get there for an hour so she hauled her bags over to wait outside a building across the street. I walked up the road and sheepishly called Taxi Taxi. 

People in our community are often surprised to learn that I ride the bus. I will sometimes see people I know from Love Wins at the stop or on the bus, and get into conversation. Yesterday I was standing at the Moore Square station waiting for my connecting bus, and one of our regulars walked by – a vivacious trans woman named Dustin. I called out to her and she came over to give me a hug, saying, “Hey! What are you doing out here with us commoners?” It’s times like that when I feel like I’m in the right place.

Meet the staff: Mike

We have four new staff members at Love Wins Community Engagement Center. Over the next few weeks, each will introduce themselves here. First, we met Leann Rafferty, our Office Manager, then Clelia Sweeney, our Operations Associate, and Laura Foley, our Operations Manager. Now, meet Mike Raburn, our Director of Communications:

Hi. My name is Mike. I’m the new Director of Communications for the Love Wins Community Engagement Center. Yes, that means Facebooking is now part of my job (as my partner Amy noted the other day with slight chagrin). I have been blogging and podcasting for several years as I went through grad school at Duke and pastored a Vineyard church in Wake Forest. Amy and I have eight children ranging from 24 to 2 months old; five of them live at home with us. We also have a dozen or so pets and creatures living with us at any given time. Ours is a house full of life, love, music, toys, and laughter. For more about our family and community building adventures, you can check out our podcast AM Radio.

View More: grew up Pentecostal and earned a PhD in theological ethics from Duke. I am an ordained pastor in the Association of Vineyard Churches. I like to play bass guitar, watch sci fi movies with my kids, and relax at the beach.

Jean Vanier (one of my heroes) said, “it is the weak, and those who have been excluded from society, who have been my teachers.” I learned a lot at Duke. I learned a lot serving as a senior pastor for the last four years. Now, I am incredibly thrilled to be part of the Love Wins community and have this new set of wonderful teachers. I’m already learning a lot from our community members. I look forward to sharing that with you, amplifying the voices of our community members who are full of life, love, and wisdom.

Meet the staff: Laura

We have four new staff members at Love Wins Community Engagement Center. Over the next few weeks, each will introduce themselves here. First, we met Leann Rafferty, our Office Manager, then Clelia Sweeney, our Operations Associate. Now, Laura Foley, our Operations Manager, tells us about herself: 

My name is Laura. I do not identify as much of a writer or especially a reader for that matter. This, I am afraid, has always been true about me. It is as though the experience and interactions of my day always provide me exceedingly enough content for entertainment, reflection, and learning.

I would whole-heartedly rather meet and talk to each of you than write these 200+ words and have you simply read them. Thus my procrastination in writing this thing. However, as I have been reminded incessantly, that is neither pView More: nor practical and these 200+ words are important.

I wake up each weekday with the hope of becoming worn out. I long to contribute body, mind, and spirit to our community until the very last drop. I experience, investigate, and wonder about life in a highly corporeal way, hence why I prefer to actually meet you, whomever you are. I love beauty and I love working to create beauty. The physicality of what we do at the community engagement center cannot be overstated. The values of mutuality, agency, downward bias, free space, relationship, grace, and bearing witness are not first words but life. We are faces, handshakes, smells (of all kinds), questions, tears, hugs, laughs, arguments, cleaners, friends, pot stirrers, pot stealers, and protectors.

On the weekends I nest with my partner Mechelle. We like to listen to 80s music and go to estate sales. We love to share meals around our table with friends. We both teach yoga and always wish to practice more. Our dogs Oaks and Lulu Belle are opposites and inseparable.  We pride ourselves on each being fourth generation North Carolinians. I prefer to clean the garage out and go hiking while Mechelle likes to read a book and lay in the grass. We have hopes of growing our family one-day but currently are just working on a garden.