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Published on December 24, 2018

hope written in water color

A Night of Hope for the Homeless

Each night in Sioux Falls, dozens if not hundreds of people – some men and women, some families with children – face the fear and unknown that comes without having a home.

They shelter where they can. With so little control of their lives, they face the elements, as well as the chaos or whatever the night may hold in store for them.

The Bishop Dudley Hospitality House in downtown Sioux Falls is one place where many find shelter. What the site offers is in its name: the dignity that comes with a warm welcome; hospitality and hope from its staff and volunteers.

Each year, the House hosts special guests from local businesses and organizations for its “A Night of Hope for the Homeless” event that aims to raise funds and enlighten these guests about the challenges of homelessness.

The leaders sleep outside in October, and among them this year was Avera Executive Vice President of Mission Mary Hill, who said she gained a better understanding of the truth of this underserved population.

“The night we spent was outdoors, and eye-opening, but we were not really roughing it. Compared to what the homeless in our community face, we had it easier, and only for one night,” said Hill. “We were inside a tent, and we were under watchful eyes of the security team. We bunked down in refrigerator boxes, but we had sleeping bags and other items to make it more comfortable."

"Around 2:30 a.m., we heard the sounds of day laborers departing the shelter, heading to sites where they would wait for in hope of getting work that day. It was a reminder of the many challenges that accompany a life with little control.”

Hill said her perspective changed as she spent time “in the shoes” of those who face a homeless reality.

“One of the important things I learned was that high percentage of the homeless population face mental illnesses, chemical dependency or both,” she said. “Avera’s mission, as a Catholic health care ministry, is to serve vulnerable and marginalized populations such as these. We have a special nature to do our best to aid the efforts of the team at Bishop Dudley in their work.”

Hill is not the first Avera leader to take part in the overnight event. In 2017, Avera President and CEO Bob Sutton, along with Sister Patrick Leonard Murphy, camped out in the tent that’s set up in the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House parking lot. Hill said she came away from the event with an impression of the staff and allies who make up the team at the facility.

“Much like the mission that calls Avera employees to our health ministry, you could sense the vocational passion in the workers and volunteers at the House, the way they treated each guest with honor. They seemed to express Christ-like compassion for those who came,” she said. “They embody the ideas behind our directives as Catholic health care services. The care they provide helps each homeless person to experience his or her personal dignity and value.”

While Hill and the other participants spent just one night facing what homeless Sioux Falls residents face every day, the event’s value resonated.

“Be it through contributions of time, material or funds, there are many ways our employees can support the work of Bishop Dudley Hospitality House and its team. Their mission reminds us of the critical work we do as well, and how Avera is an ally in this effort,” she said. “It takes allies to address a complex problem, and the hospitality they show aligns with Avera core values. It parallels our work and mission.”

Hill said that while the homeless are in some cases single men and women, that many families with young children were among the population.

Experiencing their reality, even if just for one night, and with some help, opened her eyes to the reality the homeless population faces.

“The words of Christ inspire the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House team, as it says in Matthew, this group is caring for those who most need it,” she said. “This population is one Avera also serves, and who needs our help, be it in health care, in support of programs such as the Hospitality House or in prayer.”

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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