BY KAREN BISGES
A rewarding and life-changing experience is how most people would describe caring for the poor. To touch the “untouchable” and foster relationships with people is the calling for those who live at A Simple House.
A Simple House was started in 2003 by Clark Massey in the project neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. Unlike other missions, A Simple House is oriented toward adults, for a child’s life will benefit from a loving, healthy and dependable parent.
“Adults are so frequently overlooked by society,” said Chelsea St. Peter, an alumna of Franciscan University’s class of 2013 and a fulltime volunteer at A Simple House. “Our outreach with adults is intent on helping them, befriending them and to start walking this journey with them.”
A Simple House is exactly what its name suggests. There is no Internet or television in the houses. The simplicity helps “to not be distracted by the busyness of culture,” said St. Peter.
All who live in A Simple House are volunteers with a minimal budget for food and house necessities. The budget for each month is $3,000, which goes toward house bills and helps with things like groceries for a family in the neighborhood.
The unique aspect about A Simple House is the complete dependability on God to provide. The volunteers live a simple life.
“The focus is so much on building lasting relationships,” said St. Peter about the volunteers.
It is a group of lay people who live out single lives with the evangelical counsels of chastity, obedience and poverty. There are no solemn vows but they practice each of these counsels throughout their ministry.
There are four houses in some of the most devastated places in Washington, D.C. and Kansas City, Missouri. These houses are under the patronage of several saints, mainly St. Francis of Assisi, for his call to poverty, and St. Alphonsus, for his devotion to the poor.
In ministering to the poor, volunteers at A Simple House build profound, lasting relationships with the people. While they are there to care for the people, they also evangelize.
However, their approach is to leave it in the hands of God. They want to know the person, truly, before suggesting a Bible study or asking someone to accompany them to Mass. One striking way they bring Christ to people is by praying with them at the end of each visit.
“There was a boy during my first year of ministry who we were taking fishing; his uncle was shot and killed a year before. He would sneak a knife into school because he feared people would hurt him, so we got permission from his grandmother to take him fishing, and one day he asked, ‘Did Jesus have a horse?’ … I was like, ‘um, What?’ ‘Well, he lived on a farm with farm animals…’, ‘Well, Jesus was poor, he only had the tunic on his back, and this led to the Nativity story and so much more.’”
This faith-filled community strives to live out the Gospel the way Jesus did.
“We’re trying to love them and get to know them,” said St. Peter. “You go to these places where someone was shot on the corner and it is a regular thing for them. … There is spiritual poverty, material poverty. … God loves them and they might not know that they are loved.”
A Simple House is a balm that helps the community; whether it is to sit and talk, drive someone to an appointment or clean a house, the volunteers do it with a devotion to each person, and they build lasting relationships with families, staying in contact throughout the years.
This mission does not just impact the people it serves; everyone is touched in some way or another.
For more information on A Simple House go to its website: asimplehouse.org.