On December 3, 2014, The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina hosted a listening session with Transitions, a local Columbia organization that helps people transition from homelessness to permanent housing.

During the listening session, representatives of the Foundation sat with Transitions residents and staff for lunch and discussion. Each table shared their experiences in homelessness and Transitions. From these sincere conversations, the Foundation learned valuable lessons regarding homelessness and poverty in Columbia.

“At my table I met a woman who grew up being told she’d never amount to anything,” Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, Foundation Senior Research Director, said. “While at Transitions she’s gained the confidence in herself to go back to school in her 50s. She can’t wait to show those who called her ‘nothing’ her diploma.”

Foundation representatives found this listening session to be eye-opening, discovering how close we all are to being in the same position.

“From my conversations I learned how easy it is to become homeless. All it takes is one misfortune to end up there,” Tom Keith, Foundation President, said. “I gained great empathy and respect for those who are making that difficult transition from homelessness.”IMG_8039

We learned that Transitions serves as a safe-haven for some of its residents.

“Someone shared their struggle with alcoholism at my table, but she doesn’t struggle anymore thanks to Transitions,” Elizabeth Geiger, Executive Assistant, said. “She learned that you have to help yourself through Transitions, and now Transitions is where she feels safest.”

“A woman who was homeless due to a rough divorce said that Transitions has made her a better person,” Katrina Spigner, Senior Program Director, said. “She said ‘For a long time I wasn’t able to dream. At Transitions I can dream again.’”

From this listening session, the Foundation learned that Transitions is doing its best to serve a diverse population of people.IMG_8060

“Not all homeless people are in the same stage. Not all homelessness looks the same, so we cannot stereotype or treat everyone the same,” Spigner said. “Transitions is doing its job to meet the needs of people in different situations.”

Lastly, the Foundation learned that giving people an outlet to share their stories is of grave importance.

“This listening session gave people the chance to share their stories,” Cooper-Lewter said. “The Foundation does this so people know that someone cares about their journey and that their voices matter.”