On the other side of the fence

By Sara Hedberg

A passing glance at the outermost edge of a yard will turn to shameless curiosity. The array of colors will draw you further inward, until you find yourself wondering, “What could be on the other side of the fence?”

Behind a fence painted with the words “love” and “peace,” you will come across more than just a home; you will find yourself on the doorstep of Hannah House.

Hannah House is one of three homes on Jefferson Street that opens their door to homeless men, women, and families with children. Hannah House instills a sense of community in the guests and passes along quite a bit of hospitality.

“I’ve moved from Houston, and I never felt a community like this. There is more hospitality here than at the 101 Bed and Breakfast,” said C.J., a current guest of Hannah House.

The community is part of the Catholic Worker Movement, a group that promotes living a simple lifestyle in a community, serving the poor and resisting war and social injustice. The movement was started during the Great Depression by Dorothy Day and homes like Hannah House are a result of her work, according to their Web site.

Amy Wilcox has been a guest behind the fence for about a year and said that there are no real rules as to how long someone stays. Sometimes people stay days, and sometimes people stay months. She said that it’s about getting people to a new place in their lives.

Funding for Hannah House comes from donations, and they don’t accept any help from the government. All of the guests do what they can to help out, and the group is not tax exempt, according to Hannah House’s website. Most of the furnishings in the house have either been donated or left there by previous guests.

Wilcox said that one of the ways they receive donations is by posting ads. They were recently able to replace the furnace this way. Private citizens as well as churches and other organizations contribute donations to the group.

Every couple of months the three houses get together and have some sort of gathering. One summer, while hosting their yearly block party, the group decided to build a fence – a fence that holds more meaning than a passing glance could notice.

The guests don’t all practice the same religion, but they seem to be working toward common goals – goals they aren’t afraid to paint on the fence that stands at the outermost edge of their yard.

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