Diakonia is an emergency homeless shelter serving people in Worcester County. However, it’s far more than just a place to eat and sleep.
The word, “Diakonia” is a New Testament Greek word meaning “compassionate love towards the needy.” If you were to visit Diakonia, you would see and feel that Diakonia lives up to its name.
The staff and volunteers at Diakonia work to create a warm and supporting family-style environment. Each of the 200 to 300 guests they have each year are treated with dignity. The Diakonia staff and volunteers count their work a success if they help people from becoming homeless again.
“Addressing the causes of their homelessness is not an easy task,” says Diakonia’s director, Bee Miller says. “Ninety-seven percent of them have had problems with alcohol and or drugs.”
How does Diakonia work to help individuals get their lives back on track?
Miller feels that the family atmosphere makes an important contribution. “As with any successful family,” she says, “we have rules, structure and responsibility.”
There are three major rules. First, substance abuse is not allowed. Drug addicts are required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous on a daily basis.
Second, they are required to be back at Diakonia by 10:00 p.m. Third, they are required to find a job and begin supporting themselves.
It’s tough love, and Miller has seen it pay off many times. In one recent case, one of the guests, a mother with two kids, didn’t like the requirement that she get a job. “She told me that this was too much pressure and she couldn’t do it,” remembers Miller.
“I told her she had to do it and that she had to take responsibility for her two kids,” continues Miller. “She marched out of my office, furious. She slammed the door behind her, after calling me a word that rhymes with rich.”
As Miller tells it, her staff members were worried and wanted to know what to do next. Miller told them, “Wait!”
That very day, the woman got a job working in local hotel. In two weeks she received a promotion. In a couple of months she could afford her own place to live.
“On Mother’s Day of this year,” recalls Miller, “she stopped by to show us the car that she had just bought. She was beaming. She had her pride and her dignity back.”
Miller congratulated her and said, “You know that I care about you and I pushed you because I knew you could do it.”
And then Miller said something which is possibly the essence of what truly compassionate love is all about. She told her, “I cared more about the life you have after you leave here than I cared about whether you liked me or not.”
Compassionate Love Towards the Needy
Miller and her staff treat each case differently, but when their stay at Diakonia is over, it’s not just, “See you, have a nice life!” Instead, they stay in touch. The former guests are invited back for holidays and family reunions. Additionallly, they’re supported if they’re going through a rough time.
Diakonia is available to the homeless 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It deserves its name, “compassionate love towards the needy.” Wish list: Volunteers 30 folding chairs new carpeting Xerox paper Donations for prescription medications for guests. (This can be done by putting in a credit at Bailey’s in Ocean City or Rite Aid in White Marlin Mall.)