My New Place in the World

Written by Dottie G.

From eating around a table with strangers who may or may not interact with you or anyone else to worshipping with a congregation that agrees to every praise report or prayer request by shaking jars filled with dried beans, the Haywood Street Congregation is an experience too few have had the pleasure to experience. It’s called Holy Chaos and is an experience that fills me with joy, even as I have some anxious moments. It’s for the joy of the experience that I am taking some training that will make me a better leader of the about-to-be-launched Haywood Street Storytelling Circle. Finally, it’s because of the joy I have experienced in our story writing group that stories have become so important to me.


Celebrating 10 Years

Written by Director of Respite, Nicole B.


Wow!  10 Years of Respite care at Haywood Street Congregation.  1,388 people who—instead of having to recover from an acute medical need outside–were able to have a warm bed, smiling faces, good food, and support around their medical care.  I feel a little inadequate speaking about the last 10 years knowing that I have only been involved for the past 2.  Years of history and memories come before me–walking through the front door greeted by the pictures of the friends who had stayed before.  Stories from current co-workers who lives were forever changed by their stay at respite.  Memories shared of a friend who chose respite as the only place he wanted to be at the end of his life.  There is no doubt that this small space has impacted lives and holds such a dear place in the hearts of many.  And I think that because through all of the changes over the past 10 years one thing holds true and steady-our ever-persistent focus at Haywood Street on relationships.  


Explicit Hope: Norma’s story

Written by Lead Storyteller, Melanee Rizk

The first time I heard a piece of Norma’s story was a week after she moved into her apartment. We sat in the sun under a tall tree in the center of Homeward Bound’s new Compass Point Village. The newly renovated hotel strangely reminds me of Haywood Street in some ways—God’s beloved and too regularly overlooked, welcomed into a place where they are wanted and safe.

As we caught up before diving into her story, one of Norma’s neighbors shouted angrily at a young woman who looked to be impaired in some way, threatening her if she didn’t fix her dropping pants. The yelling went on for a couple of minutes until, when addressing the young woman by name, Norma calmly and affectionately called out, “Hey, Baby Girl. Go ‘head and pull up your pants.”


The Presence of Jesus

 by Terry Beamer

If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the door, you will not find him in the chalice.”

-Saint John Chrysostom,

c. 347-409 Archbishop of Constantinople


There are many stories at Haywood Street Congregation. As many as there are people. Everyone has a story. Everyone. Our lived beliefs, relationships, and experiences combine to help reflect who we are, who we become, and who people perceive us to be.

I have a story too. May I share just a bit of it with you?



 by Lead Storyteller, Melanee R.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to go unnoticed, then you best stay clear of Wendy. She’ll have you in a metaphoric embrace and pronounce you as part of the family before you can say “hello!”

Wendy understands the profound need for connection that folks around Haywood Street have. And it’s clear now that her presence is a gift to this community that searches for something flowing so naturally from her.  MORE

Dear Mississippi

by Laura Bernheim

You were one of the first people I met in my early days as a companion at Haywood Street. Apple juice, oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, and bacon: one plate, two plates, and a little extra. You needed a lot to sustain your enormous humanity. 


“Mississippi, we don’t have any apple juice left.” Of course, some would settle for its more famous sister, orange juice, but your loyalty to apple juice was remarkable! I should have saved you a couple of glasses of apple juice every timeMORE.

Jaseynth’s Invitation

by Lead Storyteller Melanee R.

Jaseynth (Juh-SIN-ta) is one of the beautiful wayfarers to grace the cracked and busy pavement of Haywood Street’s campus. A transgender woman with a gentle presence, she is tall with soft, forgiving eyes. I met Jaseynth when she peaked into my office one morning. A shy smile crossed her face as she apologized for her curiosity.  MORE.


by Lead Storyteller, Melanee R.

Chances are you’ve seen Laura around town. Probably walking down Patton Avenue clad in a long skirt and an ear to ear smile on her face. She’s known for being “the woman who rides her bike to Florida and back every year.” If that doesn’t bring her to mind, then like me, you likely first know her by that contagious smile and vibrant spirit. MORE.


by Lead Storyteller, Melanee R.

Sometimes you meet someone and, at once, you’re reminded of how resilient people can be. That’s what I experienced when I met Jason for the first time. He was released from prison a few months ago after spending the last 24 years in a cell. At 47 years old and with his first smartphone, he’s now learning how to navigate this complicated, virtual world he finds himself in. MORE.



Community, Commitment and a Little Ginger Beer 

by Lead Storyteller, Melanee R.

Korah and I met during my first week at Haywood Street. A couple of staff who had the privilege of experiencing his gentle, kind, but cautious spirit, suggested I get to know him. I sat down with him in the living room of the Respite to hear his story. He sat in the reclining chair to the right of me–leaned back, folded his hands on his lap and smiled at me. His smile puzzled me–and still does. It has this uncanny way of portraying gratitude in spite of struggle. Maybe that’s what makes Korah so complex.  MORE.


Story and Photos by Brook van der Linde

Timothy Wright was born January 16, 1965. We call him Cherokee because his grandma called him Cherokee because his daddy was full-blood and his mama was Cherokee-Scottish.

I sat down with him on September 9, 2021 because we didn’t think he had much more than a week to live and he wanted his story to be heard. MORE



Story and Photos by Brook van der Linde

Pamela and I found Haywood Street at almost the exact same time. I was running from a short-term job in bail bonds, she was running from a dope house in Marion. Pamela jokes, “I’m surprised we didn’t meet sooner!” To know Pamela is to love her. Easily. The streets call her Peppermint Patti. Or Hurricane. Haywood Street calls her a Child of God. MORE.

Eric the Blue Ridge Boy

Story and Photos by Brook van der Linde

Eric can’t really not draw a crowd. I’ve taken a seat by him on the blacktop and, subsequently, two teenagers and their parents have as well. He’s showing us how Johnny Cash made that chuka-chuka percussion sound by strumming with a piece of folded-up loose-leaf paper. He’s spilling all the trade secrets before we’ve even exchanged a proper, “Good morning.” MORE.

Michael & Family

Story and Photos by Brook van der Linde

often see Michael from my office window; sitting, smoking, waiting patiently until it is time to pick his two-year-old daughter up from daycare. For our staff, who care tremendously for Michael and his family, it has become painful to ask if they’ve been placed in housing yet. We’ve been asking for four years. The answer has been ‘not yet’ for four years. MORE


Story and Photos by Brook van der Linde

If you’re going to sit down with Aaron, buckle up. He comes with 42 years of peaks and valleys and an urgency to recount all the journeys in between. MORE.


Story and Photos by Brook van der Linde

“I guess you could say I grew up with one foot on the plow and one foot on Lexington Avenue. You know that Aerosmith song, ‘The Last Child‘? That was like my anthem for a while.” MORE.



Story and Photos by Brook van der Linde

There is a recording on my phone. It is from March 11, 2020, starts at about 11:00 a.m., and lasts 37 minutes. The person on this recording is our dear Friend, John. Over the years, John has shared his music, his presence, and his walk with recovery. He has also shared the breadth of human emotion and has given many of us the gift of learning to be with. Praise God.


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