Love Lives Here

May 18 was an exciting day for me. My son was finally able to resume his physical therapy sessions that had been suspended for several weeks during the Safer at Home initiative. When he first started outpatient therapy in February, I had been able to sit in the waiting room until time to take him home, but because COVID 19 prevention measures are now required, I have to leave the building after completing any required paperwork. I was told that if I remained on the premises, I could spend the two hours that he is in therapy in the uncovered courtyard or in my car. Since I knew that most surrounding businesses were not open to the public, I opted to wait at home, where I have HVAC, 2 bathrooms, hot and cold running water, and a full refrigerator. The only negative is that I have to make an extra trip to the hospital in my air-conditioned car. Poor me, right?

While considering this minor inconvenience, I realized that our women—who already have more burdens than we could imagine—are now subject to these additional restrictions that make their daily lives even more difficult. Facilities that had once been open to them are now closed, and they have none of the comfortable options that I have. Their options for something as simple as washing their hands are greatly reduced, at a time when handwashing is being emphasized as the first line of defense against infectious diseases. It hardly seems possible, but our women are living with even less privacy than they had when we first began to meet with them on Summer Avenue. And as if all of this weren’t enough, the civil unrest that has erupted in the past week adds even more complications, with curfews and increased police presence.

But what can we do? It won’t help for us to sit in our well-equipped homes and hope our women will find a way to manage these additional difficulties. The assistance that Sandra is currently providing in the form of food and supplies is a start, but it by no means addresses our women’s complex set of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Having a drop-in center will provide so many more opportunities to assist the women in an organized manner with food, water, counseling, and community.  Even if we are unable to congregate for a few weeks, we will have a permanent location for the handwashing station that A Lee Dog Story has donated to us. We will also be able to store food and make it available more often. Our volunteers will have a safe space in which to work, and our women will have one place on this sad earth that they will know they are always welcome. It will be their north star, something to count on as they have been able to count on Sandra during these past few dreadful weeks.

Whether we have a physical location or not, we are a community, the Lisieux Community, and love lives here. When we are able to realize the vision of the drop-in center that we’ve described in previous blog entries, we will need to have a sign over the door that says exactly that. Love, with no strings attached. Love that wants only the best for each other. Love that turns strangers into friends and friends into family.

We are the Lisieux Community, and love lives here.


Moving Forward: Survivor Advocates

by Sandra Ferrell, Executive Director

I am anxious for us to move to the next step of our journey as the Lisieux Community. Over the last several months, our Board Chair has blogged about the planned drop-in center. She told about the rooms in the house, why each is important. The thing we haven’t yet told you is about some new programs we will implement to help the women we serve.

We have planned the drop-in center in communication with the other programs in town because we only see one part of the problem. Each organization approaches the issues from a unique perspective. They see things we do not see.

One program we have planned is the Survivor Advocate program. We anticipate hiring several women part time to help with our expanded services, and we have recognized that these Survivors have a unique gift to bring to the program and that each survivor has a unique history to deal with. Each survivor is also in a different place so far as job skills and job history.

We want to honor all they bring to the table and to facilitate continued healing. So we will use part of their time to provide counseling, both group and one-on-one.

Okay, now I have a dilemma. There is a person who has had a part-time job for several months. She is in her own home. When she is present on Thursdays, the whole time goes smoothly. She is an advocate for the women because she has been able to move forward and she wants that to happen for the women still out there.

Because we cannot congregate for a long period of time as we once did, I stop and meet all who are nearby and then move back to the streets. She might stay in one place and encourage any latecomers to stay until I come back around. She has actually gone with me into the streets nearby to help me locate others.

Please keep this program in mind. If she had additional income, she would be more secure and be able to meet challenges in a better way. And she would be gratified to be able to help the women who are still un-housed or under-housed. That means a lot to her.


Share Our Vision: The Drop-In Center Dining Room

Dining RoomWe bring you now to the final room in our virtual tour. As we open the door to the dining room, we ask you to recall that we started in the kitchen, which we called the most important room of the house; this is true because food is the most basic human need. Simply put, we die without sustenance. It is such a basic need that we started our ministry to a few women on the streets last fall by taking them food. Every Thursday evening, we now serve an evening meal and snacks-for-later to about 25 women in a parking lot.

So if we’re already feeding the women weekly, what difference will a dining room make? The surface answer is that even if food were the only focus of our work, we would greatly prefer to see our women eating their meals seated comfortably around a table indoors instead of huddled around a van in the heat, cold, and rain. Would you enjoy having to brave the elements just to have your hunger satisfied?

Although that would be enough of a reason to have a dining room, there is much more to it than that. In our very souls, we understand that a meal taken in community is not just about the food. From ancient times until now, breaking bread together has been a symbol unity, of conflict ended, of paradise restored. Sharing a meal with friends around a bountiful table is a way of feeding both the body and the spirit. Meals served at the Lisieux drop-in center will be eaten around a table blessed by love for each and all, where the benefit of the feast is not determined by the richness of the food but by the sweetness of the fellowship in which it is enjoyed.

Fostering community by building trust has been a major theme throughout our description of the drop-in center. Indeed, the concept of community has been an integral part of our organization since the beginning—so much so that we made it part of our name. We started this new ministry knowing that building trust with the women was the key to seeing them persist in the long difficult process of recovery. Therefore, we can find no better way to complete our description of the center than to quote the saint for whom our community is named. In one of her letters, St Therese of Lisieux said, “Trust and trust alone should lead us to love.”

Please pray with us that the God who is Love itself will provide us a facility where the women who are now on the streets can learn to live in ways that promote individual and corporate health in a community of real love.

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Share our Vision: The Drop-In Center Offices

OfficeThe rooms we have described thus far on our virtual tour can be found in any residence. But now we bring you to the rooms that distinguish the drop-in center from an ordinary home. These are offices in which women can access additional services beyond food and supplies. Memphis has many excellent non-profit organizations that meet various needs, and our strategy has always been to collaborate with those services to assist our women. For example, we have taken some of our women for health screenings with the Shelby County Health Department, and we recently worked with Baptist Women’s Health Services to provide mobile mammography services. We have helped some of the obtain identification because that is a basic need for obtaining housing and legitimate employment. Some of the women have asked for help with addiction, and we have assisted them with placement in a recovery program. Our program is already much more than meals and supplies delivered on Thursday nights.

Although we can continue to feed our women in a parking lot and connect them with local services as they request it, we will be able to coordinate these efforts more consistently with the center as our hub of operations. Visiting health care workers will provide some basic services onsite, with referrals to clinical services as needed.  We will also have a social worker to assess each woman’s situation and recommend the services she needs. Although our women have much in common, each one is an individual and should be treated as such. Most important, since our program is based on trauma-informed care principles, our staff and volunteers will all operate from those principles.

You see, we believe it would be irresponsible of us to meet only the immediate physical needs of our women without also offering them a way to process the underlying cause of their circumstances. We contend that women do not choose to be homeless and hungry, to neglect their health, to become addicted, to sell their bodies, unless that is the only choice they can see. The path to life on the streets almost always begins with trauma, and sadly, that life exposes our women to additional trauma. Unless they are given the opportunity to break that cycle, they will never find the road to healing. So we will provide onsite opportunities for those who are ready to leave the streets to access professional services that will assist them in that process.

Will you pray with us that the God whose Son came to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds will provide a suitable place for our women to meet with trained professionals who can help them begin to process through the trauma in their past so that they may find hope and healing?

Share Our Vision: The Drop-In Center Living Room

Living RoomOver the past few weeks we’ve taken you through several rooms of our anticipated drop-in center, all of which have met some practical purpose to serve a very basic need (meals, showers, laundry). The Living Room is our next stop, and it will also meet a need and serve a purpose, though not one that everyone might see as practical at first. But we would contend that having a safe, private place where we can continue to build community among the women and volunteers is imminently practical to their spirits. A living room is intended to be a place to deepen our connections with family and friends. Secluded from the view of the hostile world and safe from the tyranny of bad weather, our women can take some time to relax and get to know each other better.

We do our best to build community when we visit with the women on Thursday nights, but if you’ve read any of our accounts of those visits, you know that there is a fair amount of chaos and absolutely no privacy. It is therefore difficult for them to let down their guard. Although—and perhaps because—they are eminently vulnerable, they try very hard to appear tough, which sometimes creates additional problems for them.

Granted, four walls, a sofa, and some chairs will not solve all of our women’s problems, but having such a home-like setting even for a few hours a week will give a welcome air of normality to their lives. As busy as we all are, the living room is still for most people a place of fellowship. Think of the times that you’ve gathered around a coffee table to play a game, watch a movie, or just talk about how your day went. Those shared moments of kinship give you strength and help prepare you to deal with the stresses of life.

You can see, then, how providing a place where our women can have those kinds of moments will help them develop healthy friendships built on solid foundations and mutual trust, with no strings attached. Such friendships will prepare the women for the hard work of meeting with counselors to face their trauma and begin to heal. When they are able to be vulnerable to those who will lovingly support them through the healing process, they will become less vulnerable to those whose only desire is to exploit them. That in itself makes the drop-in center living room a very practical place indeed.

Now we ask again: How can you help us make this vision a reality?

Will you pray with us that the God who created us in his image and said that it was not good for us to be alone, would provide a place where our women can develop true friendships that will support them in the long and difficult process of healing from trauma?

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Why Don’t They Just Do Better?

We are extremely grateful to all of you who “get” what we are doing and why we do it. Donors continue to shower us with food and supplies, and volunteers not only help distribute the items to our women, but stay for a while to offer a smile and a listening ear.

But not everyone recognizes the wisdom in showing up week after week to serve most of the same women. Some who hear about our work ask questions that begin with these four words: Why don’t they just …?

Here are a few examples.

  • Why don’t they just get treatment for their addiction?
  • Why don’t they just go to a homeless shelter?
  • Why don’t they just go live with a family member?
  • Why don’t they just get a job and stop prostituting themselves?

To offer such simplistic solutions is to disregard the enormous complexity of the problems that weigh our women down. Addiction, homelessness, prostitution, isolation, and lack of self-worth are only symptoms. No permanent change can occur until a woman is ready and able to address the root cause of these symptoms, which most often is trauma. And they will never be ready or able until they trust those who can offer them holistic, lasting solutions.


We can’t count that high

We are sometimes asked how many times a woman may visit our planned drop-in center before we would turn her away because she hasn’t made any effort to leave the streets. Our response is that we can’t count that high. We refuse to set a limit because every woman’s situation is different, and some need longer than others to start the path toward healing. Some may never be able to make that move. Regardless, we are convinced that our efforts to show these women real love by meeting some of their basic needs is the right thing to do.

Even without the drop-in center, we have been able to build trust over the past few months, and a few women have decided to trust us enough to get the help they need. But most of them are still on the streets. Nevertheless, we cannot and will not rush the process. It takes as long as it takes.

Last Thursday, we found out one of our women had been attacked. Thankfully, she showed up before our visit was over, so her injuries were not life-threatening, but one of the other women got upset that her sister on the street had been hurt, and she became loud. Yet we continued to treat her with love and kindness. We know that when the women act out, it is the trauma talking—or yelling or screaming or crying. Our hearts break that our women have to endure such pain. Yet we must also say that we have never seen more resilient souls. They are grateful for whatever we provide. They smile and laugh despite the pain, and when they ask us to pray with them, it is a sweet moment of hope like no other we have ever experienced.

Please continue to pray with us for these precious souls whose eternal worth gives us joy, even as we grieve for their situation. Please give whatever you are able so that we can open the drop-in center, where we will be better able to meet their needs.

Thank you.


Share Our Vision: The Drop-In Center Laundry Room

No doubt you are wondering what could possibly be exciting about a laundry room. Some of us dread doing laundry so much that we postpone it for as long as we can. I’ve heard people say their only motivation for washing clothes is that all of their favorite outfits are in the clothes hamper.

laundryBut if you have ever done without the use of a washer and dryer for any length of time, you quickly realized the benefits of having clean clothes on demand. Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but it makes a huge difference in the way we feel about ourselves, as well as how others view us. It is also important in creating a sustainable lifestyle, as most homeless people must rely on clothing donations, and they often have to discard clothing because they cannot find a way to wash it. Thankfully, one organization offers homeless people an opportunity to wash their clothes at a local laundromat periodically, and some of our women have been participating in their program and are grateful for it.

Then why, you might ask, is it important to offer a laundry room in our drop-in center? As a commercial venture, a laundromat is not designed to give our women at least three things that our laundry room will provide: dignity, community, and additional services.

First, when the women participate in the laundromat programs it is obvious to them that they are accepting charity because the sponsor provides the money to operate the washers and dryers. At the drop-in center, they will get free use of a washer and dryer with no exchange of money and no strings attached. But out of gratitude, many of the women have eagerly offered to serve as volunteers in the drop-in center. Allowing them to serve as they are willing and able gives them the dignity of being part of their own solution.

Second, one of the main purposes of the drop-in center is to provide our women a healthy sense of community in a home-like atmosphere, where they can eat a meal together around a table, chat with a volunteer, or just relax in privacy while they wait for a load of clothing to wash or dry.

Third, the drop-in center will offer the women access to additional services a laundromat cannot provide, such as health screenings and various types of counseling.

So that’s why we can get excited about a laundry room. It will be much more than the place where we offer our women the use of washers and dryers. It will be a room where we offer them the opportunity to take care of themselves. It will be a room where they gain a sense of accomplishment in a supportive atmosphere where their multiple and complex needs are addressed. It will be a room where they can reclaim what might otherwise have been discarded. It will be a room symbolic of dealing with the past to prepare for the future. Most important, it will be a taste of home.

Will you pray with us that the God who clothes his people in clean linen will provide a way for us to open a drop-in center with a well-equipped laundry room?

How can you help us make this vision a reality?



By Sandra Ferrell, Executive Director, The Lisieux Community

I have always preferred the winter to the summer. We can add on clothes, coats, and blankets to help warm us in winter. In summer, we can take off a certain amount of clothes but even if we stripped, we would not be cool if the temperature outside was hot. I have always had a hard time when it is extremely hot. I begin to sweat, get dizzy and my legs get weak.

My mind today keeps going back to our visit on the streets Thursday night with the women we serve. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a line of people next to the building that had an overhang of about 18 inches. Some were sitting on milk crates, a couple with a lawn chair and some were standing. The women had on shorts and t-shirts pulled up from the waist to right under their breasts. I believe the heat index was slightly over 100 degrees.

We parked and got out, and immediately the women came to the car. We stood and talked after we gave out sandwiches and water. Within just a few minutes, I began to feel uncomfortable, so I sat on the back bumper of the car. I eliminated the danger of falling over but did not feel any better. Trisha Henderson, our Survivor Advocate, had gone to the store and picked up washcloths so the women could wipe their faces. They stood around us and talked.

One woman who I will call Susan said some hard things about her circumstances. She got loud and used words that are not easy to hear. Some years ago I would have been frightened. But I know this woman and I know she is full of love for everyone and just had to vent. One of the other women came to her and began to sing and dance and there was laughter, even though no one had planned it. Susan’s posture raised and she seemed much lighter after leaving the painful words behind her. I looked at the faces of the other women who came with us; they also honored Susan by letting her get the pain out of her heart.

Another woman I will call Betty always comes up offering a hug and I always accept it and thank her. She laughs when I thank her. Last night, when I thanked her, she said, “You’re awesome!” Then she asked for prayer. She said people don’t want her to be like she is but she has to be who she is and needs to be accepted. I do not know what about her is not accepted and I don’t need to know. Some of us, including the women she is with on the streets, held hands and I prayed. When I finished, I left room for others to pray and when no one did, Betty said, “in Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.”

When we are uncomfortable, we get real! Also, when we are with those we love, it is safe to be real.

Today I am so sad that these wonderful women must stay out in the heat all day. After about 40 minutes I got in the car and turned the air on. There was not room for all the women, and I felt guilty but I did not want to faint. We have dreamed of the drop-in center for many months. NOW is the time to recognize the necessity for the center.

house.pngIn the area where we meet the women, there are many homes listed on the “blighted property” list, but when I inquired of the nonprofit that holds title to them, the response I got was that the neighbors did not want to do that. Yet the women walk the streets there! I do not understand! There must be someone in the area with a suitable building who will be willing to say, “Welcome, Lisieux” instead of “Not in my back yard.”

Please pray for a house for us to open the drop-in center. Donate if you are able. Any amount helps, whether you have $1 or $50,000 to give. What can you do to offer hope to the women we serve?


Share Our Vision: The Drop-In Center Bathrooms

As we continue our virtual tour through our planned drop-in center, the second stop is a room that some might see as embarrassing, but we see as empowering—indeed, as humanizing. A bathroom provides us privacy as we care for very basic personal needs. But women on the streets have few opportunities to tend to their needs in a sanitary, private, safe place. So walk with us now into one of the drop-in center bathrooms.

bathroomYou will notice first the fresh smell and gleaming surfaces indicative of a place that is cared for with love. Even the toilet is shiny clean, ready for you when you need it. You turn on the water in the sink and run your hand under the refreshing flow. Then you dispense some citrus-scented hand soap and wash your hands. As you dry them on a fresh towel, you peer into the freshly polished mirror and see that your hair is out of place, so you put it right again to restore your confidence. As you turn to leave, you see the tidy stack of fluffy white towels ready for anyone who wants to bathe. Then you pull back the flowery shower curtain to reveal a spotless facility.

Everything about this room sets your mind at ease and restores your dignity as a human being. If you have a home, you have a bathroom like this—or even more luxurious—available to you whenever you need it. But what if you did not?

Right now, Memphis is experiencing our usual summer heat. How many times in the past week have you paused to be thankful for a bathroom with hot and cold running water? There is nothing quite like a refreshing shower in the summer or a warm bath in the winter to give us much-needed comfort. Rest assured that women who spend most of their time on the streets will never take for granted the opportunity to have access to a bathroom like the one we have described.

Will you pray with us that the God who refreshed his people with water in the wilderness will provide for our women the benefit of bathrooms designed for their needs?

Share Our Vision: The Drop-In Center Kitchen

A couple of weeks ago, we gave you a glimpse of life on the streets. Truth is, the life that our women endure is much harsher than we are able to convey to you. That is why we now want to begin sharing with you our vision for a drop-in center by describing, room by room, what we will offer the women we serve. Let’s begin in the kitchen, the most important room of any house. A kitchen sustains life and fuels hope; it is both perfectly human and beautifully sacred. And the kitchen of our drop-in center will be a great blessing for women who are entirely too acquainted with hunger.

Welcome to Our KitchenAlthough it must be fitted out as a commercial kitchen, we will make it as homey and inviting as possible, fitted out with pretty things—dishes, coffee mugs, curtains, and dish towels. Open the refrigerator and you will see only the freshest vegetables, fruit, milk, cheese, eggs, and meat, all waiting to be made into nutritious meals and snacks. The pantry will be stocked with tomato sauce, tuna, rice, pasta, and cereal. From the stove, the aroma of a hearty soup or spaghetti sauce will blend with the fragrance of bread or cookies or peach cobbler baking in the oven. Most important, the air will be filled with the sounds of lively conversation and laughter as our volunteers interact with women who have sought refuge at the center for the day.

After the meal, the dishwasher will hum and slosh as volunteers clean the counters and store the leftovers, while our guests move on to other activities. Contrast this scene of love, joy, and peace with what you know about the noise and danger of the streets.

Are you beginning to share our vision for the drop-in center? How much are you willing to pledge to make this vision a reality?

Will you pray with us that the God who fills the hungry with good things will provide for our women the benefit of a kitchen devoted to their needs?