I’ve Volunteered – Now What Do I Talk To Them About?!?

homelessOne of the questions that volunteers rarely ask, but often recall after serving a few times at Project WARM is the feeling of “What am I supposed to talk about when I get down there?”.  It is such a great question we thought we would share some suggestions to help get the conversation started.

Each one of these guys has a life story, just like you.  I’ve met an engineer, a number of veterans with great stories of bravery, an auto mechanic, a computer technician, a father of some pretty interesting kids and a whole host of great men.

Each of them is a creation of God that He loves.

Unfortunately many times on the streets these men are treated like untouchables.  Talking to them as a human and treating them as someone who is just as good as you is the start to a great conversation.

Here is how I generally start with a guest I don’t know.  I sit beside them, or crouch down to look them STRAIGHT in the eyes.  Try not to look down at them on their cots – sit down and spend some time.

Me:      “Hi, my name is Steve” (stretch your hand out to shake theirs – they enjoy that)

Guest:  “Hi, I’m Edward” (100% of the time I’ve gotten their name – it’s a good ice breaker)

Me:      “Thanks for coming in tonight, have you been here before or do you have any questions?”  (They are always appreciative and rarely have questions – sometimes they ask about dinner, or if they can have some water or where the bathroom is – all very easy questions.  If they ask a “hard” question you can always ask one of the Project WARM employees).

Me:      “Did you grow up around the South Bend region”?  (This is a good question to learn a little about their history and is a good conversation starter – it doesn’t focus on their problems and gets them to think about potentially better times in their lives).

Me:      “I volunteer here every now and again so we’ll probably get to know one another – tell me something interesting about your life – kids, pets, hobbies, military service – you name it.  Something I can remember you by when I’m praying for you”. (This is a great lead in question to LONG conversations – make sure it’s a two way conversation – tell them something interesting about you.  By the time you get to this point in the conversation you are good to go)

Me:      “Can I pray with you for anything now?” (This is a good way to close the conversation and also a great way to start bringing God into the conversation.  You would be surprised how many guests let you pray for them.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy prayer or a long prayer – just think of God sitting right beside you and you having a conversation with the guest and God.  If something comes up during prayer that you are concerned about you can reach out to one of the Project WARM employees to help as well).

Questions I try to refrain from asking and why:

So how did you end up homeless?” – Inevitably this will come up in your conversation but I try not to lead with it.  They have been asked this A LOT by now.

Have you been drinking / taking drugs?” – This is irrelevant usually unless there is a problem that you need to address.

Do you have family locally?” – If they do then the only reason they would be at Project WARM was due to a fall out with the family.  If they don’t  this could stir up emotions or depression because they don’t have family close.

How long have you been homeless?” – Another question to avoid, but it will come up.  Try not to remind them of the problems they are facing by recalling the past and how long they have struggled.

Are you married?” – Again if they were married they probably don’t have a positive reason why they are at Project WARM.  Try to focus on the positive.

Pray, Love, Serve – A Testimony of Love

Project WARM volunteers are incredible.  Here is another testimony from a great volunteer at Project WARM:

I was asked to share my thoughts about Project WARM, why I volunteer and what it means to me.   I have put much thought to these questions, there are many reasons, but the most important answer is that it is what God wants us to do.   I remember hearing about a new outreach project last fall at Clay Church called Project WARM.   I was interested right from the start for many reasons.  I had been looking for something that I could do giving to others, I have a gift for cooking for the multitudes and I knew that there was a need.

I will tell you that from the start my faith in this ministry has been constant.  Wondering if we would have enough meals provided, enough warm socks, etc. and this summer concerns about needing a new location.  My faith is strong and I know without a doubt that when we are doing God’s will and His work  He will provide.  I like to equate Project WARM to the quote from Field Of Dreams, “Build it and he will come”.  The volunteers came…the food came…the donations came and most important our guests came.

The second night that I came to Project WARM I was asked by a guest if I was afraid to be there.  I told him that I was not afraid to be there, that I was there because I wanted to be.  It was so interesting and amazing to see the relationships build from week to week.

I love those men…every single soul that walked through the door!  They are in my heart and prayers forever.

 

If you are thinking of volunteering I will give you my best advice.  Don’t be afraid.  Smile.  Meet these men where they are at, some will be more willing to talk than others.  Leave any judgments and preconceived ideas at the door.  Pray with and for these men.

If you are considering preparing and bringing food, I have a few thoughts.  When I am cooking for our guests I think of them as being my dinner guests and what would I serve them if they were coming to my home.

I use the time while I am cooking to pray for the men that will come to Project WARM that night.

 

The men love fresh fruits and vegetables.  The guests are very appreciative and thankful, they will tell you so.  I had a young man apologize to me one night because he had come up for a 4th bowl of chili.  I asked him not to apologize.  It was wonderful knowing that my work was appreciated.  He replied, “It is the only thing that I have had to eat today”.

I know one thing for sure.  You will be blessed abundantly if you spend time at Project WARM.

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
-St. Francis of Assisi-

 

Peace and blessings

Ginny Jakoubek

Serve Like Jesus – A Guest Post

We get a lot of questions of what it is like to volunteer so we asked one of our volunteers to write a guest post on what Project WARM volunteering means to them. We could not have asked for a better post!

Volunteering for Project Warm has been a great experience for me.  I have also continued my friendships by participating in Project WARM-UP and volunteering at Broadway Christian Parish UMC.   It is wonderful being part of a ministry that leads others to God.  We help serve a need by giving the men a place to sleep and eat, but what we do by becoming their friends is worth so much more.  Watching them change their lives – getting rid of addictions, turning their lives over to God, moving into treatments, etc. is the real goals.

I can say that volunteering for Project Warm has changed my life as well.  I have made some wonderful friends – volunteers and guests through this ministry.  It has given me a new compassion for others.

It has made me strive for better, more real friendships that are pleasing to God.

 

I am so excited about the coming year.  I have met several men that have became homeless in the last few months.  They are so grateful for a warm place to stay.  They have heard the great things about Project Warm.  Also, I think it is a real testimony that it is continuing on.  A lot of ministries start and then go away after a year.   The men know that people really do care.  That the volunteers did not just do something for one year and forget about them.  Also, I am excited that I have several friends that have never been part of Project Warm and they are going to volunteer this year.  I don’t think a day has gone by in the last several months that I have not mentioned Project Warm somewhere throughout the day.

I know God calls us to help the homeless.  To treat them the way we would want to be treated – better than we would want to be treated.

These men could be our fathers, brothers, sons, or even US.

 

We have God in our lives.  If we did not – where would we be?  I believe that God will move greatly through this ministry this year.  So many are praying for lives to be changed – and I believe He will be changing even more lives than last year.  Maybe even YOURS!!!

Dana Bunch – 2013