As a young single woman with little to know family to turn to I found myself a thousand miles away from home across many state lines and homeless for the first of what would become many times. Both my parents had passed away by the time I was 18 years old. I worked the graveyard shift at a grocery store when a young bucktooth man entered the grocery store in the early morning hours and made the statement that I would very often hear throughout my life, “You look hungry.” He invited me to his home for lunch when my shift ended and greeted me with Mercy and a Hot Meal. How can we rid the stigma of poverty? Invite everyone to the table, open to all, come as you are and greet people with Mercy and a Hot Meal like this young man did without hesitation.

After having been homeless with and without children, as a married family, and as a single mom at least seven times of which I can remember, I struggled to dig myself out of the pit I found us in. I applied for services and was met with many tones of disapproval to insure I knew the blight I was on society. Family members, coworkers, strangers, most people treated us the same, like we had a plague that was contagious. I was homeless and hurting, not ignorant.

I remember a time I found myself sneaking into an unlocked car to stay warm and find what rest my infant daughter and I could. Someone once looked at me and asked, “You know there’s no such thing as the 5 second rule?” To which I answered to their shock and amazement, “That depends on how hungry you are.” For those reading this that may not know, the “5 second rule,” relates to dropping your food and if you pick it up within 5 seconds it’s still clean enough to eat.

One of the greatest assets I had as a homeless woman was and is my ability to read and ask a lot of questions. I discovered reading policies and procedures of each organization and learning it better than their employees empowered me to exchange poverty and opened up a slew of opportunities. I learned to advocate for myself and started digging myself out of that pit beginning with healthy friendships-community.

Mercy Table, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by providing the skills and tools needed to succeed. We believe that every family has the potential to thrive, and we work to provide the resources and support needed to make that a reality. Our mission is to empower families to exchange poverty for opportunity. We offer a variety of services and programs to help families build better futures for themselves and their communities.

Or simply put, we treat people how I had hoped to have been treated when I was in their shoes. I thank God for bringing me from the receiving side to the giving side of the table. Join us in our mission to make a difference in the lives of families in need.