Helping Hands Street Mission is a social service organization on Barton Street where I’ve been spending my Thursdays and the past couple Mondays this term.
Helping Hands operates both a clothing “store” and a small cafe that anyone walking by can wander into for a coffee, whatever clothes they need for the week, or just to chat with friends. More than this though, it’s a place that has grown quite close to my own heart. Working there and hearing the stories of the friends who walk through the doors has been quite the experience so far – and I’ve really loved it. Here’s why:
I spend Thursday afternoons with a women’s group, who meets every week to eat lunch and do crafts together for several hours. There I get the privilege to hear people’s stories and offer a helping hand and listening ear. In return, these women teach me something about love.
People coming in will take time to stop at the board that hangs on the wall, depicting the faces of their loved ones who have passed away. They take the time to write the exact dates of their deaths, or to place a kiss on the foreheads of their deceased friends. I see them come in crying as they talk about friends-turned-family who have started dabbling in stronger drugs. I see the worry in their eyes every time Holly Clarke’s name makes it into the conversation.
It amazes me the strength of community I’ve found here – these people can tell me where every single one of their dozens of friends can be found at any point in the day, and yet I am struck by the fact that I don’t even know my own neighbour’s name. They take the time to ask me about my own life and interests, while I’m not even sure how to hold a conversation with them. Every week I hear the new “street gossip;” such as joyfully-told stories that so-and-so finally broke up with her abusive boyfriend after years of beatings, or the painful sadness that someone else has relapsed and they would like my prayers.
There are endless stories like this of both hope and tragedy, and I’m thankful that Helping Hands is a place that provides opportunity for these conversations. As people wait to look for clothes in the clothing store, they can come into the cafe for a quick coffee. It’s warm and friendly and volunteers and friends alike join together in drinking coffee and sharing skills, conversation and stories.
Besides opening its doors for women’s group and its regular cafe and store time, Helping Hands also organizes a Men’s group, a Bible study, Sunday worship, Friday night Cafes, and monthly visits by two barbers who come in to cut our friends’ hair.
I’ve come to see that God is doing awesome things there, in my own heart and in each person who walks in as they are met with the love of Jesus and other provisions for daily life.
To learn more about Helping Hands and the work they do, visit https://www.hhsmhamilton.com/.