The power of our friends

01.27.20

It’s early on a Monday and a group of friends sit around a table talking. Val’s mom is in the hospital. Lonnie’s feet are bothering him again. Edna sang in the choir at church. Clinton smiles and says, “How about those Ravens?!” The table erupts in cheers.

This is the weekly meeting of People Encouraging and Empowering People (PEEP), an emerging nonprofit organization and group of donors. Proudly wearing matching t-shirts, they dive into agenda item one: their fourth annual holiday food drive, which fed 11 families experiencing homelessness.

“Helping others is a big part of our recovery,” says Lonnie Nelson, hinting at another aspect of PEEP’s purpose. “We’ve all been through a lot, but we also know there are a lot of people out there who are still struggling.”

In addition to their shared mission to give back, Val, Lonnie, Edna and Clinton all “graduated” from the state-certified addictions treatment program at Health Care for the Homeless.

“This group is a safe space,” Lonnie says. “When you’re in treatment, you come here to the clinic every day. But when you graduate, all of a sudden you’re on your own. This is like after care for us. It’s about knowing you’re not alone.”

As clients complete the addictions program, PEEP members cheer them on at the Friday graduation ceremonies. And they let folks know that, come Monday, there’s a place where they’ll be welcome.

“Being clean means a lot to me,” says Desmond Williams, who’s rarely missed a meeting over the last three years. “I have a better relationship with my friends and family. I have a lot left to give, and being around people who understand what I’m going through makes me feel much stronger.”

Like any group of friends, members of PEEP laugh together, cry together and sometimes disagree. But most importantly, they all know they’re not alone.


Housed or unhoused, we all have something valuable to give others.
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