Friday, March 23, 2012

Yes You Can -- Danielle's Dream

Danielle with TC3 resident, "Giant"
Danielle Richmond's life was full during her teens. She got her first job at 15, she volunteered at the  Red Cross Youth Corps and at Sacred Heart Women's Shelter, and she worked with the homeless.

"I'm frugal," she told me. "I would go to Costco and for $100 I could buy enough food to feed 100 people." Others would help her make sack lunches and they'd deliver them to Denver's homeless. Sometimes people donated funds; sometimes she paid out of her own pocket.

She spent time talking with people, getting to know them, and she realized how much conversation meant to the people she served. "Homelsessnes is dehumanizing. People -- good people -- turn their eyes away. They don't know what to do. This experience made me passionate about working with the homeless," she says.

Tent City 3 at Seattle Pacific Univesity
As a student at Seattle Pacific University, Dani enjoyed attending Compline, Saint Mark's Episcopal Church's evening service. One evening she noticed an announcement in the bulletin that there would be a meeting the following Sunday to discuss the coming of Tent City 3 to Saint Mark's. It was January, 2008, and she was a sophomore. She went back the next Sunday morning, attended the service, then met with the homeless advocacy team. She's been there ever since, worshipping with the congregation and serving as Saint Mark's liaison to Tent City 3.*

Danielle thought that if Tent City 3 would ever make its temporary home at Seattle Pacific, both the students and the Tent City 3 community would benefit. That became her dream.

During spring quarter, 2009, she was invited to speak at an open class session to an applied ethics class, showing a video about Tent City 3 and inviting students to contact her if they were interested in helping bring TC3 to SPU.

Among those wanting to get involved was Chris Kyle, who had just been elected to the position of the student body vice president of campus ministries. "He had connections!" Danielle told me. Together the group gathered data, interviewed prior church hosts for Tent City 3, explored the costs and logistics, garnered the involvement of several faculty and staff. But if Tent City 3 were to come to SPU, they would need to convince the administration. Modeled after Blueprint for Excellence, President Philip Eaton's 2004 strategic plan that cast a vision for the university's future, Dani and Chris, along with a team of interested students,  created their own 30-page view book, outlining what Tent City 3 is and why it should be housed at Seattle Pacific.

The process consumed their time and energy, but they were not alone. Jeff Jordan, now VP of Student Life, and Dave Church, VP for Facility Management, were both committed to bringing the transitional shelter to campus.

Danielle and Claire Burkitt chatting with Tent City3 resident
Danielle graduated from Seattle Pacific in 2010 with a major in theology and a minor in communications. After graduation she took a job in Student Financial Services at the university and continued to work toward bringing Tent City 3 to SPU. Four years from her introduction to Tent City 3, it began its two month stay on campus.

If you think that this process snuffed out her passion for serving the homeless, you'll need to think again. This articulate, earnest young woman has dreams yet to pursue.

She'd like to see an active student group that focuses on presenting forums and serving the homeless throughout the year and bringing Tent City 3 back to the SPU campus once every three years.

And she has her eye on a deserted Catholic school next door to Denver's Sacred Heart Women's Shelter, where she volunteered as a kid. She's a believer in helping folks transition out of homelessness, so she'd like to buy the building and use the classrooms for teaching during the day on topics such as filling out paperwork, writing a resume, interviewing for a job, and budgeting. In the evening the cots would be brought out and the building would be transformed into sleeping quarters. Meals would be prepared in the school kitchen and served in the gym/auditorium.

And on Sundays, the stage in the auditorium would become the platform where she would preach the gospel to those who would choose to attend. By then, she'll be an ordained pastor in the Episcopal church.

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*Tent City 3 is one of Seattle's transitional shelters for homeless men and women. The Seattle Housing Authority contracts with area organizations, churches mostly, to a provide temporary location for up to 100 residents, for a maximum of 90 days. This self-governing community oversees its own 24-hour security and each resident has responsibilities to fulfill in Tent City 3's operation. They maintain strict rules of conduct: sobriety, no violence, no drugs.

Check out SPU's Tent City 3 pages for more information.

(Yes You Can is a monthly feature that tells the story of someone who has had a dream, followed their dream, and made a difference in their world because of it.)

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