The following was written by AHA Senior Shannon Cornils '17 as a trimester-end project in her Campus Ministry team Service Learning course
A building with a small parking lot, a bike rack, and a playground with a fence around it. Young kids riding bikes and scooters, kids playing at the playground, kids getting off school buses, cars honking, and people yelling. This is the scene every Tuesday when I arrive at People Serving People to volunteer.
When I joined Campus Ministry Team, I heard for the first time about People Serving People and learned that it is a homeless shelter in Minneapolis located near US Bank Stadium. A part of CMT is to do service and make it part of our lives. While attending AHA, I have expanded where I do service and the type of service I do. AHA is a community and being a part of the AHA community, service is important. AHA challenges the student body to service and to go somewhere new to serve. Being a part of AHA and CMT, I discovered People Serving People and it has changed my life.
I help clean at People Serving People in downtown Minneapolis with a few classmates. When I first went to People Serving People, I met the housekeeping crew: Don, Bry, LT, and Toya. Dawn instructed and showed us what we would do when we volunteer. Every Tuesday, the first thing I do is help with linen exchange that lasts for thirty minutes. Residents can bring down dirty sheets, towels, and blankets and exchange them for new items. While waiting for residents I fold sheets, towels, and blankets and put them in piles on labeled racks. Once linen exchange is over, I grab a cart that has all the cleaning supplies I will need to clean. Every week I sweep and mop the floors, vacuum the common room, clean the big window on each floor and mirror. Sometimes I will help clean the full service clinic that is run by Hennepin County by changing the trash bags, cleaning the bathroom, and vacuuming the floor. If I clean the lobby, kids will talk to me or ask me questions. Often I will help turn a room by doing a deep clean and talking with one of the housekeeping people. Every time I serve at People Serving People, I will see kids and residents I saw the week before and they will recognize me. Every week I talk to Bry, Dawn or LT and we will joke around and have great conversations. While serving, I know I am making a positive impact on the residents staying there and on the housekeeping crew who does this work every day.
My experience at People Serving People has changed my perspective in many ways. The first way is how my view has changed about homeless shelters. I had thought about homeless shelters as people lining up outside a building waiting for room and to have a meal. I have learned about how People Serving People receives its residents. They get people who have gone to an agency and the city places them at People Serving People. I learned from Dawn some of the many reasons why people are at the shelter. Some are pregnant and were kicked out and have no support. Some have a job that doesn’t pay enough or have come to Minnesota to get away from Chicago. Some are there as a safe place due to a restraining order. People Serving People is run like a hotel. It has security, a daycare, a laundry room, classrooms, a cafeteria, and a full service health clinic. They have a professional who takes head shots for residents' resumes and who holds mock interviews. People Serving People is there to support and help the residents be successful to so they can support themselves and live on their own.
Galatians chapter six verse two says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Jesus' call is to everyone. We should learn about others' struggles and help them when we can and do the work of Christ while we help them. This verse reminds me to learn about others and to learn about why someone has ended up where they are. There are many interactions and factors that have helped shaped who I am today. My time at People Serving People and volunteering through Campus Ministry team has helped me to see that everyone's situation is different. Through People Serving People and volunteers like me, residents can be empowered so that their homeless situation can be temporary.