Exploring Poverty: Warming House

Shannon Murray, a senior biology major, also acts as a coordinator for the Warming House in Olean. With this, she gets the privilege of interacting with the guests who come into the Warming House.

Murray talked about how this experience has shaped her view of poverty and people who live in what could be considered a state of poverty.

Murray mentioned that because of her background in a rural neighborhood, she had always viewed poverty as something detached from her life. But after some of her experiences, she realized that “they’re just people like you and me.” The situation became “more real” to her.

Murray also talked about how the way she views community service mainly changed how she views the world. She said previously she had performed community service but “this is actually service.”

She went on to say some of the guests will help her out in the kitchen if she needs it and it has more of a community feel. She said one of her favorite parts is that she’s “not only helping them, they’re helping themselves and they’re helping [her].”
Opening up more about her experiences, she said there have been some of the guests in particular that have impacted Murray and the lens through which she sees the world. She mentioned one woman in particular who helped her learn the true meaning of determination.

Upon their first meeting, Murray noted the woman was the type of person Murray has trouble getting along with. However, after more encounters with the woman, she said they have become friends.

Murray also discussed how some of the guests rely on the services provided at the Warming House. As an example, Murray talked of one man who she knew to be homeless that showed up frequently.

After another minute of conversation about this man, she told me a fact that frightened her; Murray talked about how she hasn’t seen him in quite a while. This is a scary idea to Murray because she is unsure as to what happened to him. In our discussion she also said he had a difficult time living outside in the frigid Western New York temperatures and he longingly talked about living in a warmer place.

She said the only comfort she can find about the situation now is that she “likes to believe he’s living somewhere in the south” where he can have at least one less worry in his life. Shannon is just one of the several coordinators who volunteers at the Warming House, many of whom will be interviewed for future articles.

Vanessa Hulse is a Staff Writer for the Bona Venture. Her email is hulseva13@bonaventure.edu

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