Compassion on the Job
Alumni Find Faith-Motivated Careers in Service to Homeless Communities
Seattle Pacific University’s 2015 Alumnus of the Year, Rick Reynolds has found his calling as a minister on the street. The executive director of Operation Nightwatch was recognized for his work at Seattle Pacific’s annual Homecoming luncheon. But he’s not the only alumnus making a living by coming alongside the homeless. Here are a few more SPU alumni who have turned caring into a career.
Jennifer Damm Best ’94
- Associate Dean for Graduate Medical
Education, University of Washington
School of Medicine
- Internist, Harborview Medical Center
- SPU Student-Designed Major
(Foundations and Philosophy
of Scientific and Literary Thought)
A hospitalist with Harborview Medical Center, Jennifer Best provides inpatient care for homeless and other individuals with unstable housing who are admitted with a wide range of acute medical conditions.
“Often, a very treatable or curable condition has progressed to a very advanced state,” she says.
Even the most basic of health care measures can be difficult to accomplish on the street. “Imagine that you were admitted with a fracture requiring surgery,” she says. “I as your doctor tell you to take your medicine as scheduled, with food, to avoid weight bearing, and to keep your wound clean and dry. These things are nearly impossible without a home.”
Best counts herself fortunate to work with a skilled and compassionate team “who value the importance of every life” regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.
Scott Jackson ’14
- Immersion Coordinator, JOIN
- Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest
- SPU Global Development Major
Scott Jackson is spending a year living and sharing a budget with five other Jesuit volunteers in an intentional community. He has two primary tasks. One is to recruit, organize, and facilitate 15 student groups on half-day to one-week immersion experiences among the homeless on the streets of Portland, Oregon. The other is to spend two or three days a week as lead in “The House,” a day center that provides basic services to anyone in need of showers, computer access, haircuts, mail pickup, food, even shoelaces, and helps people get on the right waiting lists for housing.
Though he often sees people in their worst moments, Jackson admires their resilience and creativity in surviving. “My studies in global development at Seattle Pacific University gave me the motivation, knowledge, and way of approach that have been critical in my work with the homeless,” he says. “My peers and teachers shared and fostered my passion for justice.”
Audrey Riddle ’13
- Business Manager, Catholic Housing Services
- SPU Psychology Major
When Audrey Riddle spent Spring Break 2011 on Urban Plunge and lived “homeless” on the streets of Seattle for five days, it became rapidly apparent that while she and her fellow plungers had an exit plan, many of the truly homeless people she encountered had exhausted all their options. “We’re under the impression in this country that people can just pick themselves up by their boot straps,” she says, “but there are not enough boots and laces to go around.”
Now, she rents 52 affordable housing units to families in south Seattle, many of whom are immigrants for whom English is not their first language. She is responsible for rent collection, compliance paperwork, budgeting, accounting, and property management, as well as working with a team to provide the families with necessary services.
“It isn’t easy to get involved,” Riddle says. “But God calls us to do hard things.” She prays for action, that church-going Christians would see the homeless people in their neighborhoods and in their congregations, and do something about it.
Karina Woodruff ’13
- Community Advocate, Friends of Youth
- SPU Educational Ministry Major, Women’s Studies and Reconciliation Studies Minors
Karina Woodruff’s office is in the Friends of Youth Redmond Youth Service Center on Seattle’s Eastside, a drop-in facility for homeless youth during the day and young adult shelter at night.
“Communities of faith need to truly listen without judgment to those who experience homelessness,” she says. “These communities need to not only serve meals, donate clothing, and support resources. They need to become aware of ways in which homelessness is a symptom of larger, systemic sicknesses.”
Woodruff is daily inspired by the youth she serves, who are “amazing human beings” despite immense challenges and traumas, including commercial sexual exploitation. In the face of these difficulties, Woodruff requests prayer that she might always see “with the eyes of hope.”
Amy Kelly Holowaty ’98
- Investments and Partnerships/Volunteer Coordinator
- Bread of Life Mission
- SPU Communication Major
With a database of more than 250 active volunteers, Bread of Life Mission in Seattle’s Pioneer Square needs someone to make sure the right number of helping hands is in place at the right time. That’s where Amy Holowaty comes in. She helps organize donations and volunteer efforts, from daily meals and chapel services to 300 child-sized handprint turkeys that brightened the mission’s walls on Thanksgiving day.
A communication major at SPU, she was “immersed in the culture of people.”
“Some of my favorite projects were those that required me to leave my comfort zone of personal space and engage with those I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise,” she says. “SPU challenged me to open my eyes and look around, and to see that poverty exists in the midst of wealth.”