Emily Salvaterra, JVC Northwest volunteer in Missoula, MT, reflects on her experience at the Poverello Center serving the homeless population:
“How do I see the four pillars of JVC Northwest at work in my placement at the Poverello Center, a homeless shelter in Missoula? I witness real examples of community, spirituality, social justice, and simple living among those who call “the Pov” their home on a daily basis. Residents of the Pov find themselves a part of a distinct social network, made up of individuals who are chronically homeless, suffering from addictions, recently released from incarceration or let go from work, or simply out of options after a missed rent payment. No matter how different their previous situations were, they now share a connection. Residents support each other in a variety of ways, from giving a ride to the Job Services bureau to helping to navigate the intricacies of the Social Security system. They eat, sleep, relax, break down, and build up together. They are a community.
Spirituality presents itself at the Pov through its roots in Catholic ministry. Originally founded as a soup kitchen by a group of Franciscan nuns, the agency takes its name from St. Francis of Assisi, sometimes known as “Il Poverello” or “the poor one.” Since its inception, however, spirituality has found new meaning in the Poverello Center’s ministries. Many church groups volunteer their time to serve lunch at the Pov or to knit scarves and hats for clients. Residents will often speak of their belief that God has a plan for them, and that their experience with homelessness is simply one part of that plan. It is truly inspiring to see the way unfailing hope and spirituality are present in the lives of those at the Pov.
Social justice and, more often, social injustices play a significant role in the lives of the Pov’s clients. The Poverello Center is seeking a new location in Missoula, having long outgrown the structure it currently occupies. The process has been prolonged and delayed by businesses and organizations determined to move the “homeless problem” out of the downtown area, and by parent groups and neighborhood associations equally determined to keep that perceived problem out of their backyards. A new space for the Pov would mean that more people experiencing homelessness would have access to better services, but social stigmas and negative stereotypes plague the process and keep the Pov and those it serves from taking steps toward a sustainable future.
When it comes to simple living, individuals experiencing homelessness have little choice but to live within strict means. Many who live at the Pov are facing unemployment, whether suddenly or chronically. Even those who do have an income find themselves unable to scrape together funds for a down payment on an apartment for rent. Choices on groceries and tobacco are made for them by tight budgets and limited options.
Through the four core values of JVC Northwest, I live in solidarity with the population I serve at the Poverello Center. Community, spirituality, social justice and simple living in my life are mirrored in the lives of those I work with, and I find strength in that.”