- Ashley Torkornoo
Hope and Humility Helping the Houseless
Houselessness is a growing issue in America that is not getting the attention it deserves. One Mount student has decided to take the initiative to combat it. From her experiences, her hope was revitalized. Olivia Prevost (C’22) first encountered houselessness during her study abroad trip to Ireland in fall 2019. Dublin has a huge houseless population, something Prevost had never experienced. Before working with the houseless, she felt as if the issue were too big for her to attempt tackling. She commented, “Big picture problems in society aren’t solved overnight, so I think I was a little hopeless about not being able to do much about it.”
During the summer following her experience in Ireland, Prevost reached out to Christ in the City, a Catholic organization focused on addressing poverty at its core. From there, her work with the houseless population in Michigan City, Ind., began. She recalls, “When I first started, I was nervous. You know you’re working with people who are so different from you.”
Prevost grew up well-off and realized that there was a gap between her lived experiences and the experiences of those who she was helping. By relating to one another as humans rather than social standing, she could bridge the gap. “Over the course of the three weeks I was there I was able to reach the common level of humanity that lets you speak to people. If you can access that no matter your lived experience, there’s always a way to love,” she reflected.
Houselessness is not just about lacking financial resources but also lacking emotional and spiritual resources. Homelessness is lonely. So often, houseless people are marginalized and just seen as a statistic and a problem in our society. No one asks for their name or even tries to spend time with them. Prevost explains, “Particularly in the case of houselessness, loneliness is the biggest thing. People want to be heard and want to be known. In the case of the houseless they do suffer from a lack of material things, but they also suffer from a lack of human love that we are so blessed to have.”
Prevost spent three weeks of her summer working in soup kitchens and houseless shelters. During that time, she built relationships with the people she served and the people she served with. One man would often visit and talk about all his accomplishments in his past career. “You could tell he saw his value in his career rather than the family or personal connections he built,” noted Prevost. This is something we all tend to do; Our society's image of success is a good job and career achievements. However, when we place too much value on those things, we miss out on the chance to see the beauty in other aspects of people, such as their character, morals and the human bonds they have formed. The man formed such a bond with Prevost’s group that he even said they were the only ones who would listen to him. “Even three weeks out of your summer makes a difference in someone’s life,” Prevost says.
For those who might be hesitant to reach out and help the houseless, Olivia Prevost can relate. “It’s so scary to go up to someone so different from you,” she adds. “But if you ask their name, who they are, then figure out what they need after that,” that’s where you can start to make a difference. Working with the houseless was transformative to Prevost and allowed her to heal in ways she didn’t even know she needed. To this day, that experience is still impacting and transforming her.