House of Mercy in Rochester, N.Y., is known for giving second chances. And sometimes third chances. Perhaps nobody knows that better than Earl Henry Thomas. After losing his mother as a child, Earl started taking drugs at age 12, eventually became homeless at 44 and came to the organization a few years ago seeking help breaking his addiction. Sister Grace Miller, who started House of Mercy in 1985, warmly welcomed him to the facility, which gives people in need a place to sleep, eat, and get their lives back on track.
With Sister Grace’s support, Earl completed an eight-month rehabilitation program, but he had trouble staying clean. Before long he was back knocking on her door. “She accepted him with open arms and said, ‘You’re welcome here any time,’” recalls Stephanie Buchbinder, House of Mercy’s director of development and communications. “He really reflected on what he wanted his life to look like. He went back into treatment and he completed the program. He got a job with a local newspaper delivering newspapers and now he volunteers at the House of Mercy. In fact, he runs a self-improvement group here to help people who are struggling. He has such a great outlook and such a wonderful story.”
Earl is just one of countless people whose lives have been improved by House of Mercy, which is affiliated with the Sisters of Mercy, a Roman Catholic order of nuns dedicated to serving those in need. As House of Mercy celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, it continues to grow and expand its mission to help struggling members of their community.Sister Grace first opened her doors when she saw Rochester’s homeless population struggling to find a warm and welcoming place to sleep on frigid Western New York nights. “She said there needs to be a place for homeless people to go that's open 24/7 so nobody is turned away,” Buchbinder says. “So that's been her mission for the last 35 years.”
Over the years House of Mercyhas expanded to include a soup kitchen, a food pantry, and a warehouse where guests can find clothing, furniture, appliances, bedding, and personal care items as they move on to independent living. They also offer support groups and life-skills classes and provide advocacy services and referrals for health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, veterans benefits, and just about anything else their clients need. “We believe that we need to help a person as a whole,” Buchbinder says of the expansive resources. “We can’t just help them in one area of their life. We try to help them get on their feet and succeed, however that might look. It’s different for everyone. It’s not what we want them to be, it’s whatthey want to be. We just need to help them along the way.”
In a typical month, House of Mercy provides overnight shelter to more than 570 individuals, serves 2,000 cooked meals, and offers food to 4,000-plus families. Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, however, they have been forced to limit in-person services. Not that it has slowed down their mission. They are working with the Monroe County government to provide hotel housing for homeless people during the crisis, and they’ve turned their warehouse into a food distribution center. Through a partnership withFoodlink, a local food bank network in the region, House of Mercy is distributing food to a dozen local soup kitchens and shelters and another 150 to 200 households each week.
As you might imagine, funding a mission like this can be challenging. House of Mercy relies on contributions from the community and donors to keep their doors open. Nunbelievable is proud to champion the work with this inspiring organization and we made a donation of close to 2,500 meals in June. “We are excited to add House of Mercy as one of our impact partners,” says Kuda Biza, co-founder and CMO at Nunbelievable. “This organization truly aligns with our mission and we look forward to a long relationship with them that will result in many lives being impacted.”
We also encourage our customers to support House of Mercy throughfinancial contributions, purchasing much-needed items for them through theirAmazon Wish List, or (if you live in the area),volunteering your time. You can also follow their work onFacebook,Twitter, andInstagram.