Lisa Varnot Grateful for the Holiday Season
This Holiday Season will be especially happy for Lodge Life Services Client Lisa Varnot, 50, of Lititz. Lisa is a client in the Lodge’s Supported Housing Outreach Program (SHOP), and says her life today is a world away from where it was twelve months ago.
Flashback to the winter of 2010, a time Lisa does not like to remember, but knows by sharing her story she may be able to help others who find themselves in the same situation.
Lisa and her son John were living in a motel, but when the money ran out -mother and son were forced to a bleak life on the streets.
“Just in time for winter,” Lisa says.
Lisa became homeless initially when both her children, John and Janine, turned 18 and were no longer eligible for their late father’s social security death benefit. Making expenses on Lisa’s Social Security Disability was impossible.
“It was so cold on the streets, so hard,” she says.
By March of 2011, Lisa took shelter at Water Street Ministries (WSM). “It was different than what I thought it would be,” she says. “You have an idea in your mind of what a place will be like and it wasn’t that way, I didn’t feel so alone.”
Soon after moving into WSM, Lisa found out she was eligible for services through the Lodge and was paired with Program Coordinator Lisa Gockley. Around the same time, Tom Clingan, the United Way’s Director of Financial Stability and Homelessness Financial, contacted the Lodge’s SHOP Director Amanda Grosh, and said his Church, (Hempfield United Methodist Church), was offering a $275 a month subsidy, for one year, to help a client pay his or her rent. Lisa Gockley suggested Lisa Varnot receive the subsidy.
The Lodge worked with one of its valued landlords, who had an apartment available in Lititz. He, Lisa Gockley and Tom met to discuss details of the subsidy, and soon Lisa had a new home.
“I love Lititz,” says, Lisa, “It’s so friendly.”
In September Lisa was honored to be asked by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania if she would be a model for its photo exhibit “Framing Hope-an Exposition of Surprising, Hopeful and Thought Provoking Photographs to Raise Awareness about Solutions to Homelessness.” Lancaster Photographer Gini Woy’s photos depicted Lisa in her home and visiting with residents at WSM.
The photo exhibit, also featured work by photographers Harry Finkle of Philadelphia and Bill Hench from Carlise, and was on display in Harrisburg in the Capitol Rotunda Nov. 14 to Nov. 17, 2011, during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Lisa was thrilled to be asked by the Alliance to speak at the media launch event, on Monday, Nov. 14.
That morning Lisa stood before the crowd and bright lights flanked by Tom Clingan, Lisa Gockley and Gini Woy, and Tom Clingan.
“I am here to give witness to the pain and suffering caused by homelessness- and power and hope found in the least, as well as most likely places in our community. The group that stands with me today saw the light inside me and helped me see it,” Lisa said to the crowd.
“I would not have to gotten to the other side without the help of the Water Street Mission, the Lodge, the Hempfield United Methodist Church, and an understanding and caring landlord.”
The media launch event for the photo exhibit is one none of those involved with it will ever forget.
Lisa is not only happy this Holiday Season, but grateful.
“Not everyone is as fortunate as I am”, she says.
“No one thinks this would happen to them, but no-one is immune.”