Tim Barr is the Director of Resident Services at the Good Samaritan Men’s Shelter in Phoenixville. This story doesn’t begin with Tim, or end with him. It is more of a story about a new beginning.
The story begins with two women that I have come to know at the daily lunch program at St. Peter’s Episcopal church in Phoenixville. They recently asked me to join them for lunch, as they “needed to talk.” That’s not unusual. Her request was.
One of the women lives in Section 8 housing with her son. The son had a few weeks earlier invited a friend to spend the night with them. He had nowhere else to go following the death of his grandmother. The problem was that he wouldn’t leave, and I was being enlisted to throw him out.
The woman-of-the-house was conflicted. It was true that the boy had nowhere else to go. It was also true that him staying there was in violation of Section 8 standards and therefore a risk to her own housing situation. Adding to that, she was fearful that he might become angry or violent if she told him to leave. So…she asked me to do it. After overcoming my own cowardice and sense of apprehension, I agreed.
When I met him he was lying on the floor, peaceably listening to music. I asked him for his attention, and plainly reviewed the situation with him, which was basically that he had to leave and he had to do it now. He understood the risk that he had created for others. When he asked me “Where will I go?” I had no immediate answer. We discussed seeking out a shelter, but he had tried and no one would take him in because he had no I.D. He had no I.D. because he had no address to give.
He grabbed a bag and we walked to my car with no plan other than leaving . I suggested that we use a church or one of the local outreach programs in town as a bogus address to get him an I.D. Following that we would begin the search for a shelter. Somehow, this polite, twenty-three year old man, whom I had known for all of fifteen minutes had placed his confidence in me. I was not feeling at all confident about finding a solution. The job that I had signed up for was to get him out of the house, as a favor. Not knowing any more about his situation, I had assumed that there would be a friendly or family sofa he could land on. The only resource that he knew of was that his grandmother had suggested that there “might be some family in Virginia that would take him in.”
I work as a Chaplain at the Good Samaritan Shelter. I have no stake or authority in how it is run, I just get to know the guys. That morning I had been checking in with Tim about who had left or was leaving, and who was coming in. I knew that the Emergency Shelter was full.
I drove to The Shelter, and asked the young man to wait in the car while I consulted with Tim about how we might procure an I.D. and if he knew of a shelter that might take him in while we worked it out. Tim immediately got on the phone, only to learn that every shelter was full, or that the lack of I.D. was a deal breaker.
With failure at hand, Tim began to ask me some other questions that I simply was unable to answer. Finally I told Tim that I only met him a half-hour ago. When he learned that he was waiting in the car, Tim invited him in to see if he could offer some help based on a more full understanding of his situation.
We learned that he had lived in foster care until he was 18, and then had been bouncing around until he landed with his grandmother, who had just died. There was no sadness in his voice, just an explanation of facts.
After about ten minutes of conversation, Tim asked him for a few minutes to talk with me, and the young man took a seat in a corner of the office. I was feeling even more hopeless, hearing more of his story. As I was about to thank Tim for taking the time, he said, “We’ve got to help this boy out. We’ve got to.” Beautiful words from a beautiful guy.
The Good Samaritan Shelter is not limited by its number of beds. It is guided by the needs of others and by a loving Lord. Somehow, Tim reshuffled the deck and came up with a solution. The young man was astounded, I was grateful and relieved. Tim took care of things and went back to business.
And that is the inspiring business of The Good Samaritan Shelter. Every day.
Tim Barr spreading the cheer at a GSS Christmas party.