Homeless women find refuge at Monroe Gospel Mission

MONROE — The morning starts here with women gathering together, calling upon their faith to help them get back on their feet after being homeless.

The Christian-based daily devotionals are an optional part of life at the Monroe Gospel Women’s Mission. In the past 10 years, about 1,000 women have found refuge from the streets inside the shelter’s walls.

Dorothy Stima, of Lake Stevens, founded the mission in 2005. She was tired of turning people away from the Everett Gospel Mission, where she worked at the time.

Now, the shelter on Monroe’s South Lewis Street takes in 18 women, providing a warm place to stay, meals, clothing and case management for up to 90 days. During that time, the women are encouraged to confront the causes for their situation. They are guided as they look for work, deal with addiction issues and break free from domestic violence.

The devotions, which take place at 9 a.m. daily, are part of the support offered at the mission. Volunteers read stories from the Bible and lead spiritual discussions in the makeshift chapel, a small room with a fireplace, a piano, two bookshelves, a folding table and chairs.

“The women particularly enjoy the stories where people’s lives are turned around. It gives them an element of hope,” said Stima, 67. “A lot of them feel hopeless when they come here. Life has been hard. But most would say it is better with God in it.”

That’s true for Joan Cheer. She has heart problems that landed her in the hospital after she was abused by a caretaker last year. With no place to go, she ended up at the shelter.

“I came here a very broken woman,” said Cheer, 60.

Now, she works as the mission’s “house mother.” She lives on-site, taking care of the women’s needs round-the-clock. She also cooks three meals a day.

“Seeing their faces and watching them blame me for the 20 pounds they gain while they’re here, makes it all worth it,” Cheer said, as she prepared pork chops, fried rice, biscuits, green salad and cobbler for dinner one evening in January. “This house shows you what true Christianity is.”

Adriana Moreno said she also credits the mission with helping her find her faith. She started doing community service work a few years ago at the shelter. She’s now the nonprofit’s executive assistant.

To connect with the women coming into the mission, Moreno, 38, shares her experience getting off methamphetamine.

“I’m not just somebody behind a desk who went to school for this,” said Moreno, of Gold Bar. “I went to the school of hard knocks.”

She said the spiritual energy is positive for the women, many of whom were “beat down and battered” when they came to the mission.

“Everybody, in their own way, gets something out of the devotionals. It shows in their personalities and their attitudes,” she said. “They feel the love.”

After exploring her spirituality at the devotionals, Moreno started reading the Bible and going to church regularly. In December, she was baptized by Stima’s son, Pastor John Stima, of the Monroe Baptist Church.

“I got saved. My spirituality is complete and I am whole now,” Moreno said. “If I go tomorrow, I go. But while I’m here, I’m going to keep doing good things.”

Part of that work is gathering donations for the shelter’s upcoming fundraiser. A benefit auction is scheduled for the Monroe Gospel Women’s Mission at 5 p.m. on March 6 at French Creek Manor in Snohomish. Tickets cost $35.

For more information call 360-863-9003 or email dorothystima@aol.com.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports

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