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  • Writer's pictureJudy Maggio

Help for Homeless Women

Every Friday morning, the Family Life Center at Austin’s First United Methodist opens its doors as a haven for women experiencing homelessness. Living on the streets is stressful and sometimes dangerous, but this is a place where homeless women feel welcomed, safe and nourished.  

Volunteer Judy Breckbill giving a hug

“ This is a unique space. Sometimes it looks like a spa because we give them a robe. Sometimes we have music and the women dance and laugh,” says Associate Pastor Cathy Stone. She’s the one who dreamed up and launched this program after sensing the need for female-only services in the church’s ministry to the homeless. Typically about 25 women show up from 8 am to noon each week and relish the chance to recharge, rest and clean up. They get a hot meal, a shower, they can use the church’s computers and also plug in their phones. But the most important service the program provides is a group of loving volunteers who really listen to the women.  

“It’s a gift to be able to hear their stories,”  says Rev. Stone. “For the time they are with us, we try to create a space where they feel not just welcomed, but heard.”  

Volunteer Marilyn Good & Rev. Cathy Stone

The program is called “At the Well”, a reference to the biblical story about Jesus asking a Samaritan woman for a drink of water and then offering to quench her spiritual thirst. It’s one of Stone’s favorite scriptures, “Meeting people where they are, living water, all of that captures the spirit of this ministry.” 

Zeta Forsyth

Zeta Forsyth has lived outside in Austin for more than two years. She has relied on “At the Well” the entire time: “ It’s special to have something just for women. I look forward to coming here. I love the showers. I love the volunteers. They even do your laundry for you every two weeks!” 

Carrieann Smith is another regular at the respite program and says it’s been a real godsend during this low point in her life., “They listen. They respect your dignity. When I’ve had a bad day, I come here and get a hug and a big smile.” 

Rev. Stone says she longs for the day when fewer women will need their services. But, for now, she’s grateful to give women experiencing homelessness a sense of community and compassion. “For me, it’s where all the goodness comes together.” 

Carrieann Smith


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