During my years of service, I was immersed in Tacoma's homeless community, its deep pain and struggle, and its triumphs and joy. I stood beside homeless friends as they talked about drug and alcohol addictions. I called ambulances as guests overdosed, de-escalated fights. I helped severely mentally ill guests change out of their urine-soaked clothes and bandaged their wounds. I led church services that always ended holding hands in the Lord's Prayer, had floor mopping races with street teens, and wrote poetry and stories with guests. I laughed, cooked and ate. Everyday I could feel that I was making a direct difference in people's lives. There was a sort of instant gratification by action that was simple and immediate in its goals. People needed food, we fed them; people needed a safe dry place to be, bus tickets, clean clothing or blankets, we gave them these things; people needed dignity, we listened to their stories.
During my first few months of graduate school, I was pulled continually between the world I had just left and the new reality I had just begun. I longed for the community and direct service I had been a part of at Nativity House, yet wanted to use my skills in biology and see what opportunities it had to offer. I constantly worried, however, that I was not living out the radical call of Jesus to serve the marginalized people of the world. I was worried that I had turned my back on the fight against poverty, hunger and homelessness. More importantly, I was worried I had turned my back on my homeless friends in Tacoma.
Katie Villano, Krista Colleague class of 2004, is a graduate student in Ecology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. From 2003-2005, she served at a homeless shelter in Tacoma, Washington, with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Katie graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She has passion for the outdoors, social justice, education and writing.