Why I support the mission of Sheffield Place
by Nate Vander Hamm, Board President
I have never been homeless a day in my life. Other than a few random days in college when I was trying to get by on very little income, I’ve never really been hungry either. I’ve also never known a world in which I didn’t have the support of two parents who cared about me deeply as well as siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and eventually my wife and children. Throughout most of my life, I thought this was how everyone lived… at least, here in the heartland of America. During the same time, if someone had asked me the major cause of homelessness, I likely would have responded that it was due to laziness, or drugs and alcohol abuse.
Despite my lack of real knowledge of homelessness, I have also always had a desire to help others. I was raised to believe (and still do believe) in the direction given to the very early Christian Church to care for widows and orphans, as these were the most disadvantaged individuals in their communities. In considering who is the most disadvantaged in our society today, it is difficult to find a group with more pervasive and fundamental challenges than homeless mothers and their children.
The more I learned about homelessness the more I’ve learned how grossly inaccurate my previous understanding of the causes of homelessness were. I’ve also learned how many of our society’s current attempts to assist the homeless come up short. Many of the other programs that exist could be compared to bandages used to treat a head wound. While they do help with part of the issue, they don’t cure the underlying critical problems, which is what Sheffield Place strives to do. Sheffield Place is more than just a building to provide shelter to a few families. It doesn’t just give them time to “get back on their feet.” It is a program to help women who are committed to working to improve their lives and the lives of their children. It allows them to accomplish so much more than just getting by, or just surviving.
I love the fact that what we do is help make the lives of the families better over the long run. We don’t attempt to offer short term solutions. The real success of our program is felt in the years, and generations that follow after a family graduates.