Most women facing homelessness, especially those with children, will try “doubling up” with others to avoid going to a shelter, fearing what it will be like. Attempting to balance everyday life as a parent while experiencing the burden of homelessness and trying to get back on your feet is an overwhelming undertaking. Sharing an often small space with another family compounds the stress. Many mothers try to constrain their young children’s behavior and noise level so as not to add to the chaos of the household and inevitably wear out their welcome.

By the time women arrive at our Holy Angels Shelter, most will have bounced around between family and friends until their list of options runs out. “People are scared to come into a shelter,” explained Shirley Jones, shelter monitor at CUP’s Holy Angels Shelter. “Many feel a sense of shame and embarrassment that they let their children and themselves down.”

Working the 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. shift, Shirley is usually one of the first people a family meets upon entry. “I like to remind them that coming into the shelter is not the end,” said Shirley. “It can be the beginning of something better for themselves and their children.”

A shelter monitor since 2019, Shirley has a passion for building positive relationships with the women and children temporarily calling Holy Angels home.

“When people know you care, it is easier to have conversations about things like chores and house rules,” Shirley shared. “I like to listen to the kids and learn things like their favorite snack so I can help make them feel special while they are here.”

Shirley uses her creative skills to dress the shelter up for each holiday and enjoys decorating bedroom doors when someone has a birthday. “Decorating and creating nice spaces is something I have always liked doing,” said Shirley. “I want people to be comfortable, to forget they are in a shelter.”

Practicing mindfulness in her work helps Shirley remember that everything matters. From thoughtfully preparing meals to making a special dessert a few times a week, she is committed to making the shelter feel as much like a home as possible. “After being passed around and put out (of family and friend’s homes), people can come to us like a flower that hasn’t been watered,” Shirley expressed. “By keeping our facility clean, listening to people, and paying attention to what’s going on in their lives, we see a person lifted like a flower when it is watered.”

In addition to decorating, cooking, and doing special things for birthdays, Shirley enjoys sharing her hairstyling talents to help make people feel better about themselves. “I just want to be part of helping someone get to a better place in their life,” said Shirley.