Editor's note, March 2017: Since this was posted in 2014, the Crisis Shelter has moved to a beautiful, larger facility at 1515 E Illinois. Anne is the office manager there, and she's still committed to serving women in crisis, sharing Jesus in the midst of the messes!
An interview with Anne Simmons
House Manager at the UGM Crisis Shelter for Women & Children
Tell us a little about your background.
I have worked in some sort of customer service position since I was 18. I worked 11 years at the good ol’ Crescent department store (I was an assistant buyer when I left) and then worked 18 years as a member service/loan officer for a local credit union.
I have experienced many trials, and amazingly, God uses each one of them to help me relate to the ladies at the Crisis Shelter. When we are free to admit it, I think we can all relate to the issues facing our guests: family secrets, dependence on substances to take away the pain, broken family ties, depression, hypocrisy in people we should be able to trust. Our guests are not any different than I am. Really, if circumstances were a little different, any of us could end up homeless.
"Any of us could end up homeless." < Tweet this.
What made you interested in rescue work?
I had never been interested in rescue work.
When I left my last job, the company gave me a four-month severance package. Near the four-month point, I was getting pretty restless and decided to get out and do some volunteer work.
Having been raised in Spokane, the first place that came to mind was UGM. I went to the orientation and fell in love with all that UGM does in this community and went home wondering if there were any back office jobs I could do. (I was also bawling my eyes out all the way home at God’s faithfulness to me and praying.)
I went to the UGM website and the job was listed and God said over my left shoulder, “Trust Me.” I floated right on into UGM and applied for the job. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done, but when you hear God tell you himself you don’t stop to ask any questions. I was scared to death, but He carried me.
"I was hit in the face my first night."
I was several feet off the ground from reality for weeks. I oughta tell you, my first week at the shelter by myself Satan was trying his hardest to get me outta there! I was hit in the face my first night. My second night there was a suicide attempt!
None of my family wanted me to take the job, but I wasn’t listening to them. My mom still doesn’t know I was hit, and it took me a while to tell even my husband.
Do you have passages of Scripture that speak to you specifically about your everyday work with the women at the Crisis Shelter?
1 Peter 1: 6-9 has become my favorite verse. I give it out a LOT and think about it daily!
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (NIV)
What does a “typical” workday look like?
We as staff get asked this all the time and we get perplexed because there is so much that we do! (I have to answer the phone when I’m in the bathroom!) There is no break from being available. One time Rich had us write out what a typical day was like, so I took notes – four pages, single-spaced. Every day is different! When it gets quiet, we get nervous. We are constantly moving and doing.
What keeps you going day to day?
When I get down, I am encouraged by the Holy Spirit, and God usually sends me someone to remind me that my work is not going without Him working through me. Typically he will send me a new guest giving me her life’s testimonies and we cry together and I comfort her in any way he guides me. Often, too, a past guest will come by to give me a big hug. They miss the shelter when they leave!
What is something people may never guess is a part of your normal workday?
Praying, loving … just listening is all you need to do at times.
"Just listening is all you need to do at times." < Tweet this.
What do you want people to know about what you do and the women and children coming to the Crisis Shelter?
These ladies are lovely children of God. Each one is going through their own struggle and even the harshest-looking of them has a beautiful, beautiful insecure and hurt heart that needs to know the unconditional love that Jesus and I have for them.
I have never felt more blessed in my entire life.
The women at the Shelter are lovely children of God.
What parts of your personality come in handy in your job?
I don’t judge anybody before I listen to their heart, and I love listening to their heart.
What’s your favorite way to spend your time off?
Camping and watching nature. Reading.
I nap a lot. My job is emotionally draining.
"I have seen them at their very lowest."
Tell us about one of your most moving experiences at UGM.
These ladies can’t figure out why I love them so much. I have seen some of them at their very lowest.
There are some that particularly touch my heart. One whom I haven’t seen for over 2 years came by the shelter to see me on my day off the other day. The last time I saw her she was prostituting herself to pay off a drug debt. She came in high on heroin to get a hug because she was so distraught at where her life was.
I think about her often. She left me a note that she is alive, she is on chemo for cancer and she loves me. What could be better than that? I love her so much. I wish I was there at the shelter the day she came in.
How do you battle discouragement?
Pray. I get more discouraged in my own personal quiet time when I stop to think about things I see at the shelter or worry about the ladies I love so much.
I totally feel God’s presence within those shelter gates. It’s the only way to explain the peace I have when I am there. I need to remember that they are God’s, not mine, to watch over. He does the work, not me!
It's not up to me to decide how I'm used. < Tweet this.
What is one key word you’d use to describe UGM?
Can you expand on that?
I had a conversation with God on my way to work this morning. I recently found out that one of our women had lied to me and used me. And, frankly, I was angry. Really, really angry. How dare she use me like that? I cared about her. I loved her. And she used me. Then I heard God say to me, "I used you." And I realized it's not up to me to decide how I am used. I don't know the whole story. I don't know the end result of my actions and my words. I just know I was used by God, and there's real hope in that.
"I really love this dirty stuff."
Any last thoughts?
Listen to the song “Surrender” by Third Day. It needs to be a shelter song! I think we should notify Third Day that they need to do a video to that song using the lives of the women and men at the mission.
People always ask me, “Wouldn't you rather be someplace nicer and safer, like Anna Ogden Hall?”
I don't know why, but I really love this dirty stuff! I love seeing them right out of the streets and right out of the messiest messes. I just have so much love for them right at that point that I can't see myself anywhere else in the ministry right now.
I trust that God will make it very clear to me when it’s my time to move out of the shelter situation, but for now I feel so, so blessed. I'll count on him to use me wherever he wants me. I think once we have the new shelter building, things will be a lot more physically easy.
Anne and the other staff at the UGM Crisis Shelter are on the front lines of rescue. They see these women at their most raw and vulnerable, and they LOVE them. Want to be a part? Please pray. Pray, pray, pray. And click on the link below to receive updates on the Crisis Shelter Project.
More posts on the UGM Crisis Shelter:
- One Woman's Journey into Homelessness
- Homeless Women: Who Will Believe in Them?
- The Crisis Shelter: a Safe Place for Homeless Women & Children
- A Little Girl's Dream
- The Need for Change: Homeless Women & Children