A sense of isolation is one of the most common characteristics of the families and individuals we work with at Renewal House. This isolation is often due to the abuse and violence they experienced – either they hid themselves from family and friends, or the abusive situation frightened away family and friends. Some of our residents have turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with their abuse and numb themselves from their pain and suffering. Drugs and alcohol often further isolate them from those people who want to help, but who grow weary of the substance abuse struggle and all of the poor choices that come along with that.
Some residents are members of faith communities that do not condone or support them leaving their partner. Some are ostracized due to their partner being so well connected and respected in their community that no one can believe this “perfect” person could be an abuser. Others identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender and have been kicked out of their families and have lost connections at work, school, church/mosque/temple and in other communities that formerly were supportive.
When a congregation or individual volunteers to simply provide company to a resident or a child in our program, the isolation is confronted head-on. When a resident receives a prayer shawl, or a child receives a quilt handmade by members of a UU congregation, the isolation begins to lose its power. When a congregation or other group sponsors an event for our current and former residents – enabling them to enjoy themselves, get out of the shelter and even out of the city – the isolation diminishes. When a group of men gather together to do a supply drive for the residents of our shelter because they believe that no one should be abused at the hands of those who love them, the isolation begins to fade.
These are all ways that Renewal House partners with volunteers from Unitarian Universalist churches and other individuals to directly confront the isolation and lack of community our residents experience. It doesn’t fix what has come before, but it provides a sense of hope and belief that what they have experienced is unjust and does not have to be a way of life.