A Winter Night at the Friendship Room

A Winter Night at the Friendship Room January 20, 2020

I noticed the Friendship Room asking for prayers for a guest who came in tonight, pregnant and living a “desperate lifestyle.” Later, I saw my friend Molly who runs the Friendship Room posting on her personal Facebook; she gave me permission to share the status with you:

The wind chill is in the single digits, the actual temps are in the teens, imagine standing outside, begging for food, and offering sex for a place to stay warm tonight.
Now imagine being 7 mos pregnant, addicted to heroin, no clothes but those you stole from the last man who bought you.
Mind blowing, right?
Hard to wrap your brain around?
What if this was you?
What if this was your daughter?

Love all life!
Stop calling names, stop casting stones, stop making excuses, and just love.

Pro life is more than pregnancy.

The Friendship Room is open all night this time of year, as a warming shelter. They serve not only the homeless of downtown Steubenville but anyone in inadequate housing: people with a physical address but who aren’t safe sleeping there in the cold. There are people in Steubenville, and in any other town or city where there are poor people, who have a room to stay in but no heat. Sometimes the furnace is broken but the slum lord won’t fix it. Sometimes the furnace takes fuel oil and they don’t have any fuel oil until they can figure out how to pay for it. Sometimes the furnace is gas but they can’t afford to keep the gas on, so they camp out in their own house as you would in a tent or a log cabin. They nail beach towels and blankets over the windows and sleep in their coats. When the weather goes down to the forties or thirties outside, that’s miserable but won’t kill you. In tonight’s freezing weather, it could be lethal.

They walk to the Friendship Room, drink paper bowls of hot soup and wait for the cold to be over. They sleep on sofas and chairs. Sometimes they don’t have coats or warm clothes to walk in, and are already half frozen when they get there.

Imagine the pain of being that cold.

Frostbite, they say, burns as if your hands and feet are on fire.

Whatever income bracket you, the reader, are in, remember: you’re only a few mistakes, bad choices or terrible misfortunes away from  having to make that walk, feeling that burning, hoping there’s someone to take you in before you freeze.

You are not different than they are.

The pregnant woman is on heroin; she is one of two addicts that presented themselves tonight. Both are victims of molestation. That is often the way that somebody becomes addicted. I know most people my age were educated to believe that drugs are something that stupid people take, voluntarily, because they’re offered them on the playground and they want to look cool. When I went to school we had to put on skits, practicing telling the visiting policeman “no” as many times as it took for him to take his pretend drugs somewhere else, so that we wouldn’t take drugs in order to look cool on the playground. But in real life, that’s not how it works. In real life, many addicts have severe mental illness brought on by severe abuse. This country makes it nearly impossible for them to get mental health treatment, so they end up taking drugs to make the pain stop; from there, they become the property of the drug dealers that pimp them. Other addicts end up addicted because of a painful physical injury and bad luck trying to mitigate the symptoms– something else it’s easy to have when medical care is so difficult to get. Others still become addicts because they are kidnapped or sold as children by the people who are supposed to be their caregivers; the pimps inject them with heroin so they can’t run away. Very few people ever really choose heroin, not in the way we were raised to believe.

Whatever your life is like right now, believe me: you are only a few accidents, misfortunes or mistakes away from being an addict.

You are not different from them.

You are the same sort of being that they are.

They suffer in the same ways you would suffer. They are embarrassed in the same way you would be embarrassed. They hate themselves as you’d hate yourself. They often want to die in the same way you’d want to die.

What happened to them is something that can happen to you– and to your family, and to your loved ones. Maybe it already has. Perhaps you know exactly what I’m talking about. But if you don’t, trust me. This could be you.

The fact that it’s not is a mercy.

Now, what are you going to do with the mercy you’ve been shown?

How are you going to pass it along?

And how soon can you start?

If you’d like to start this minute, this time of year the Friendship Room needs always needs winter clothes, hand warmers, pregnancy tests and diapers in size 4, 5 and 6. They also take toiletries and shelf-stable food. The mailing address is P. O. Box 53, Steubenville, Oh, 43952. Steubenville has Doordash now and you can send them meals at their physical address: 419 Logan Street, Steubenville, OH 43952. Or, of course, if you’re driving distance, you can bring them something.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing with this great mercy you’ve been given.

(image via Pixabay) 





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