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Nicole Phillips, Published March 01 2013

Kindness is Contagious: Helping those without a home feel at home

I am privileged. Every night I get to go to sleep in a soft bed, and every morning I get to wake up in a warm house.

I’m starting to understand that even though that is the normal for me, it is considered an incredible privilege by many in our community.

Several hundred people in the Fargo-Moorhead area rely on groups like Churches United for the Homeless, New Life Center and FM Sheltering Churches.

John Roberts, who is the Shelter Operation Director at Churches United, says every one of the 275 shelter beds are taken each night, and community organizations continually work hard to find space for the 60 to 75 additional people who need someplace warm to sleep.

Where do those people go on a cold North Dakota night? Some are bused to area churches where volunteers set up air mattresses and welcome their weary guests.

Diane Sanders of Fargo had the privilege of being one of those volunteers. She said the experience was touching and wanted to encourage others to join in.

“I worked at the overflow for the homeless at my church, St. Mary’s Cathedral. We served snacks and were able to visit with those needing a bed. All of them were so grateful for a warm place to sleep. I guess what surprised me the most was that these guests were not what I had pictured. My stereotypes were wrong. It could have been any of us.”

Hard times don’t just fall on the unlawful, uneducated or unshowered. Troubles that pull like quicksand can capture all of us. It is then that we rely on the kindness of others to give us a hand back up to solid ground.

You can be that helping hand in two ways.

First, volunteer for a shift or even part of a shift through FirstLink, by dialing 2-1-1 or (701) 235-7335.

Second, the community leaders I spoke with ask that you help create more affordable housing in the F-M area by encouraging landlords and property managers to work with case managers to give people a second chance. The housing market is tight, and according to Roberts, property managers can afford to be picky.

Instead of being fearful of a potential problem, perhaps we can encourage landlords to look for opportunities to be incredibly kind by giving someone the chance to begin again.

I hope you get to go to sleep tonight in a warm, cozy bed. And I hope you feel, like I do, that it is a privilege.

Mystery solved

Last Saturday, I ran a photo in this column asking readers to identify the people in the picture so a camera memory card could be returned to its rightful owner.

Thanks to many of you, that memory card is back in the hands of Kim Harbott.

Thank you, Kari Werlinger, for your tremendous kindness in keeping the card safe for the last seven years. Thank you also to Kara, Eeva, Michelle and Sarah for your clue-containing emails.

I have to admit, it was incredibly fun to be part of this mystery.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the Executive Director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.