Project H.O.M.E.'s Volunteer Stories Project aims to collect the unique experiences and motivations of the people who heed the call to help others and share those stories with our larger community of friends and supporters. All pieces will be written in a Q&A style to ensure the volunteer's experiences are conveyed in their own words.
Steve Lozowski volunteers at St. Columba, a safe haven for chronically homeless men who suffer from severe mental illness. Steve helps provide meals, comfort, and – perhaps most importantly – companionship to the residents.
Project H.O.M.E. (PH): Tell us a little about yourself.
Steve Lozowski (SL): I am a product architect for a healthcare information solutions company. I am also married with one grown child. In addition to my wonderful wife, I live with two dogs, one cat, one rabbit, five chickens, and a handful of fish in a pond.
In the past, I have volunteered in different settings, including a homeless shelter close to my home. I have also tutored children at an after school program, and spent weeks doing home repair in West Virginia and working at a summer camp in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
(PH): Why do you volunteer?
(SL): I have known about Project H.O.M.E. for years, as my church supports them through a poor box program. A few years ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of touring 1515 Fairmount and the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs with Ed Speedling. So when I had the opportunity two years ago to commit to a weekly volunteer effort, Project H.O.M.E. was my first choice.
I signed up to help with dinner at St. Columba, but initially I didn’t completely know what my volunteering would include. It did not take long for me to look forward to seeing the guys I had met and meet new ones. Serving dinner and cleaning up has become the foundation for what I really enjoy, which is just talking with some of the guys. Even though they are struggling with their own challenges, they express concern for me and my family. All I really have to offer is listening and sharing our lives, but that seems worth it.
(PH): Why are the issues of homelessness and poverty relevant/important to you?
(SL): Since I was young, I have felt the injustice of some who would never have the chances I do, just because of the luck of where and when they were born. Later I came to see how mental health issues or addictions can seriously compound a person’s challenges. I know that I cannot fix things for any one person, but sharing our common humanity increases the dignity of both of us.
Since volunteering with Project H.O.M.E., Sister Mary’s prophetic witness has touched and disturbed me. I am disturbed when she mentions the structural violence underlying many of the issues of homelessness and poverty. Not because I don’t agree with it, but because it can be easy to overlook it. But I am encouraged by the vision of Project H.O.M.E. of a more just and loving society. (Loving is my term, because that’s how I think about things.)
(PH): Anything else you'd like to add? Any stories or experiences?
(SL): There is one experience I’d like to share. Last year, two college students from St. Joe’s were also volunteering on the nights I was there. Toward the end of their school year, one of the residents ended up giving them hugs. I turned to the other guys on the benches outside and asked “Where’s my hug?”. As expected, one burly guy shot back with “I don’t hug guys!”. But another guy jumped up and said that he’d give me a hug. When we hugged I realized how frail he was. Talking to him in the following weeks, I found out that he was dying from cancer, and he shared with me some of the dreams he had hoped to accomplish. Not too long later, he passed away.
At our volunteer celebration, I was telling this as a fun story, expecting to end with my hug. But as I told it, I realized that I might have been one of the last people to hug this man before he died. So I felt doubly blessed at having shared a short amount of time with him.
For more information on how to volunteer with Project H.O.M.E., please contact Volunteer & In-Kind Donation Coordinator Carly Ianuzzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-232-7272, ext. 3015. You can also visit us here for more information, including our volunteer orientation schedule.