Two years ago, Andy planned to volunteer for three months. He changed the construct of his life after being invited to a writing session. He arrived at the session in a suit as an advertising/marketing executive feeling uncomfortable initially, but discovered there was little distance between he and those labeled as chronically homeless. The topic of this session was about finding common ground with fellow members of humanity. His search for service has turned into life's work for him and staff members of Door of Hope. To grasp the commitment of this group is to understand that after government sequestration defunded much of their salaries, means to pay expenses, and ability to offer services to their guests, this team took to their own resources to keep the program afloat for more than eight weeks - without pay. Door of Hope has persevered to see powerful things happen this year.
“We refer to our participants as guests, ” states Andy Jacuzzi, Executive Director of Door of Hope. In this context, Andy and the staff are particular about the language they use at Door of Hope. The language is only one distinct component about the great work Door of Hope does. Other critical points of emphasis are the environment of hospitality that is created for guests, the humanity extended to each guest, and the sense of empowerment that reintegrates and re-socializes an individual.
Door of Hope distinguishes itself further by intentionally seeking out benefits, healthcare, and social programs that offer new opportunities to people who are chronically homeless with disabilities to reconnect to society in more viable ways. The severity of the disabilities range from physical to mental, but the emphasis is not placed on malady. Andy suggests that when intentional about serving this community there must enter an awareness of the person underneath the circumstances. His firm commitment expresses that people should not be defined by their current condition. Those of us who are in a position to assist in rebuilding a person’s way of living are partners in creating a pathway out of those conditions into a better state of affairs.
In 2005 like-minded residents in the midtown community of Memphis saw an opportunity to collaborate on meaningful work that addressed a rising population of people who were homeless. Initially, the group provided a place a refuge for a day/night to extend hospitality, fellowship, a meal. Services began to expand over time and with the help of local and federal grants, and it led to the acquisition of property that now houses 25 people on a daily basis in two different sites. Other scattered sites offer approximately 30 other guests housing throughout the city.
With a staff of case managers, housing directors, and outreach workers, the Door of Hope team looks to connect with guests through programs such as the writing group, bible study, or health/hygiene development. Their most popular program is the writing group wherein a topic is given to spark a creative essay that becomes a vehicle to share experiences. Stories receive affirmation and publication often through Door of Hope’s blog of published works called The Advocate. So many rich stories have been captured that Andy and the team are working diligently to publish a book. The hope is to share the experiences with the consent of the guests and use the narratives to heighten awareness of the program.
The range of partnerships that Door of Hope has established is quite widespread. Baptist Hospital connects with Door of Hope by offering nurse assistance. Home Depot and nearly 100 of its employees renovated exterior components and developed the landscape of a Door of Hope property to enhance the scope and expanse of Door of Hope and its’ programs. Hilton Hotels recently renovated the Pilgrims Rest facility with new furniture, equipment, appliances and an altogether renovated building. Hilton’s partnership noticed and celebrated the work of Door of Hope because of their concept of guest services for their population.
Andy and his administrative team operate from The Commons on Merton. They celebrate the support that they have discovered in the Binghampton community for their work. This team delightfully sees the possibility of change within a demographic when provided the intersection to do something meaningful. Andy suggests that any of us could be susceptible to the conditions that render misfortune and calamity. With this in mind, they offer new portals of connection, relationship, and opportunity.