Denver Street's HopeI began working for Street’s Hope in the Fall of 2013. I felt extremely fortunate to have found an internship at an organization that so perfectly aligned with my passions. At the time, I was in an Organizational Development Internship role, which focused on supporting the fundraising/grant writing/communication efforts of the organization and really offered very little contact with the Street’s Hope residents. I was very interested in working directly with the SH residents and was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to become the Program Manager in March 2014.

In my humble opinion, I think that Nina, Street’s Hope’s Executive Director, went out on a limb when she hired me for this position. Toward the end of my time with Street’s Hope, she reminded me that, “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.” She felt as though this was a calling for me and I was there to accept the challenge. I was eager to take on this new role and humbled that Nina trusted me to manage the program she had worked so hard to revamp. As the Program Manager, I got to know our residents quite well. In some instances, I’d provide transportation and would take the ladies to their NA meetings, medical appointments or the grocery store. We were able to spend a lot of time talking about life–mostly I would just listen–while on those rides in the van. I also did a morning “check in” with the ladies at least once a week. This was a time to see how the women were doing, get a feel for any potential issues going on in the house, and help remind them about the program schedule for the upcoming day. To be honest, some of those morning check ins were really tough. The women that come to Street’s Hope are so familiar with violence and survival, so a calm, home-like environment can be very unnerving for them. In addition, there are often other mental health issues, behavioral and addiction issues, which can make for a often challenging community environment for some residents. What seemed like a small problem (e.g. a lost clothing item) or a small request can escalate very quickly. I learned a lot of invaluable skills on the job, like de-escalation, conflict mediation, crisis intervention and relapse prevention. I also learned how to speak and listen with gentleness and love, while still being very firm on structure, rules and boundaries.

Some days, I would drive home from work and cry the whole way home. Working on the front lines of sexual exploitation and trafficking, you can try your best to practice healthy boundaries and implement great self care, but I do not believe you can work with this population and not experience great sorrow for the survivors. These women receive a message their entire lives that they are unworthy and they are mistreated over and again. At times, I found myself discouraged or feeling heart broken. When a woman told me about the rape she experienced as a young child, I wept on my drive home from work. When I had to call child protective services to make a report, my heart was so heavy. Each and every time a woman shared part of her story of brokenness with me, I felt privileged and recognized the sacredness of those moments.

The best part about working for Street’s Hope, the nights that fueled you through times that are tough, was getting to celebrate the accomplishments of the women, at the Client Graduation Celebrations! SH hosts this event each quarter and if you live in the Denver area I HIGHLY recommend you attend one of these. The staff all take time to recognize, praise and encourage each resident and, then, the residents also get to share peer-to-peer encouragement. It is so incredible to hear these resilient ladies reflect on the ways they are changing their life and in those moments you can see all the huge steps they have taken. We celebrate sobriety milestones, landing a new job, restoring a broken relationship with a family member, meeting goals to improve physical health and so much more!

I remember the last celebration event I attended shortly before I moved with my family to Michigan. I was so sad to be moving away from Street’s Hope–the amazing staff, residents, and supporters that I had grown to love. I was so thankful to be able to stay on staff and work remotely as the Communications Director for Street’s Hope. However, as they say, “all good things must come to an end” and so it is true with this position. I have started working as the General Manager for a company in Michigan and when that opportunity arose, I knew I would not be able to also maintain working for Street’s Hope. Even though I have missed the staff and residents dearly, it has been such a joy to get to communicate the great things happening within the organization, as they continue to grow…I will always remain a supporter of this absolutely amazing organization!

Thank you, Nina, for trusting me while encouraging me to grow and develop professionally and personally. Thank you, Street’s Hope family, for reading my eNewsletters, blogs, and facebook posts. Thank you, amazing SH residents, for inspiring me and showing me that life transformation can truly happen. I will forever be grateful for Street’s Hope and all the ways working for this amazing organization has shaped me.

Written by Peg Theobald