Shelter Helps Homeless Grow, Thrive
Emmanuel House Director Dotty Perreault understands the struggles facing shelter residents. She was only 11 months sober when she started working at the men’s shelter in 2012. In reflecting on her life, she believes that “God brought me through the fires of hell in order for me to help others who are going through that now. My family was determined and persistent. Many of the men who are here don’t have that kind of support. We become that for them.
“It was hard for me, when I first started here, to know what to do with grown men who would weep and share their personal stories.” Six years later, Dotty says, “I feel it is an honor and privilege that they trust me enough to share their inner feelings with me. It isn’t something I have learned; it is something I have walked. I tell them it is OK to cry—nothing grows without water.”
Dotty’s philosophy rings true when one looks around Emmanuel House today. It continues to grow in astounding and exciting ways. In celebration, recognition and support of the work being done at Emmanuel House, the Catholic Foundation Board of Advisors gifted the shelter with the 2018 annual distribution from the board’s Donor Advised Fund.
The staff is expanding to the second floor of the building on Public Street in Providence. The increased space will allow Dotty to offer programs and resources to Emmanuel House residents during the day—something the shelter had previously not been able to do.
“The agencies our residents need to work with and the employers they need to contact are open during the day,” Dotty says. “We want to provide them phones to call from, computers to complete job applications on, résumé support, family support groups and so much more.
“Emmanuel House is more than just a bed,” Dotty continues. “We provide services that can help residents create stable lives, no matter how long that takes. We do not have a time limit on how long men can stay here. We want them to be successful when they leave, and that takes time.”
The profusion of changes and new opportunities inside Emmanuel House mirror the abundant harvest of the vegetable garden just outside the back door. The garden is bursting with deep purple eggplant, yellow summer squash, green zucchini the length of an arm and cucumbers escaping the confines of their raised beds. Brett, a former Emmanuel House resident, proudly reaches into the plants to inspect their progress. “Soon, we will have more tomatoes than we know what to do with,” he says, beaming.
This garden beside the Emmanuel House Shelter is special. This garden feeds body and spirit. This garden is where Brett got sober.
Four years ago, Brett was struggling with addiction and homelessness. He had traveled from shelter to shelter over the years, but he landed at Emmanuel House just in time to help create a vegetable garden. The overgrown plot of land required many hours of manual labor to clear the weeds by hand and build a single raised bed. Brett jumped into the work, which occupied body and mind—an essential step on his journey to sobriety.
Today, the garden houses at least a dozen raised beds filled with vegetables and strawberry plants, a flourishing potted fig tree and a rose garden planted in memory of Emmanuel House staff and guests who have died. Brett lives in a place of his own now but tends the garden at Emmanuel House every day.
The harvest is so plentiful this year that Brett and Dotty are offering fresh vegetables to local food pantries and parishes. Nothing grows without water…and patience…and time!
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