By ANDREW C. LENNON
SUMMERVILLE — Looking for three hots and a cot? Then Palmetto House may not be the right homeless shelter for you, according to Eric Saunders (not his real name), an expert on homelessness.
If you were homeless and needed guidance at one of Boston’s Veteran’s Affairs Shelters, Saunders was the guy to see. Formerly a residential advisor at a VA shelter, he helped many wayward souls find employment and find their way to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. Saunders, in recovery himself, really enjoyed helping people to better themselves.
Recently, Saunders came to Summerville and evaluated the Palmetto House Homeless Shelter and Soup Kitchen. He reports that it is a great place, but needs more funding. He sees great potential if enough good people get involved.
He said that Palmetto House saved his life.
Saunders got his close look at Palmetto House from the inside, as a resident.
In his late 30s, he moved from the Northeast to be closer to his two children who live with their mother in Summerville. While working two jobs, he lived with a friend in an apartment. Things turned sour between the two men, and Saunders was forced to move out. In the ultimate irony, Saunders himself was now homeless.
Fortunately, Saunders is just the sort of person for whom the Palmetto House is perfect. He is a hard-worker who really wanted to improve his life. Responsible enough to save money while holding down two jobs in shipping and construction, he was quickly on his way toward independence.
The Palmetto House is an ecumenical project supported by many Christian churches in the Summerville area. It not only provides up to eight beds for its residents, but also three meals per day to anyone who drops in. In 2001, the shelter housed 409 adults and 51 children, up 9 percent from the previous year. It served 5,482 meals.
Saunders ate most of his meals at the shelter while a resident and continued to eat there for a month after moving into his own apartment. He said, “There is always something to eat. You don’t have to spend your money on food when you’re supposed to be saving it.”
One problem with the shelter according to Saunders, who is studying for a degree in Human Services, is its distance from local employment.
He also thinks the one month limit for residence is too short for most people to save enough money.
“Most people need more time to get on their feet,” he said.
Saunders, who found out about the shelter from friends at a local AA meeting, thinks that Palmetto House can’t do much for drifters just passing through town.
“Palmetto House is a great start for people who want to improve their lives,” he said.
Palmetto House gave Saunders an opportunity to get his life in order amidst crisis. If not for the shelter, he would have become destitute. Instead of sleeping in his car, he lives in decency and regularly sees his children. He is a productive member of the Summerville community.
According to Saunders, “Palmetto House is a real blessing.”
More information is available at www.palmettohouse.org.
Andrew Lennon volunteers at Palmetto House and serves on the Board of Directors. He is a member of St. John the Beloved Church.