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God’s Love Homeless Shelter

 

WAYNE MILLER: I sold a silver dollar about three years ago for $525,000.

LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: The Book of Matthew says it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Wayne Miller takes that scripture seriously.

WAYNE MILLER: I have a concern for these people when they go up, and I believe in a heaven and a non-heaven, when they go up there how are they going to explain, you know, what they’ve done with their money?

SEVERSON: Miller knows about money. He’s made enough of it. His little coin shop in downtown Helena, Montana has done more than $325 million in business since it opened 45 years ago. This is his son, Dave.

DAVE MILLER: Seriously, when they get any money their first thought is who can we bless? Who can we give this money to? I say that out of every $1,000 my dad gives $999 of it away without even thinking.

post01-godsloveSEVERSON: Over the years, Miller has given away millions of dollars to charities all over the world, especially to the people of Helena. He knows that some have taken advantage of his and his wife’s generosity but says they would rather err on the side of love.

WAYNE MILLER: God doesn’t ask you about your ability or your inability. He asks you about your availability, and we happened to be available at a time when people were wanting to start a shelter.

SEVERSON: They called it God’s Love, and as homeless shelters go this one stands apart.

ANN MILLER: Unconditional love—you know, everybody talks about that, but what that means to us is that before they ever walk in the door the first time, we already love them. We don’t wait to see who they are or how they act or what their problem is or if they’re lazy. We already love them.

SEVERSON: Joe Wojton, one of God’s Love managers, has worked in other shelters around the country.

JOE WOJTON: Everybody who comes through our door are people with problems, not problem people, and we treat everybody with love when they come through our door because we realize the people we’re seeing—some have never been homeless before. This is a very scary experience, and we try to love them up the best we can.

post03-godsloveSEVERSON: The shelter usually accommodates about 40 homeless downstairs and has rooms for nine families upstairs. But most of the people they feed here are not homeless. They have jobs and live in the community.

DAVE MILLER: People rely on us in the middle of the month to eat down here. They know the food stamps and the food boxes are only going to make it a couple of weeks, so they rely on us to come down, on their ability to come down and eat.

ANN MILLER: It doesn’t take a lot of misfortune to be on the street these days. I think everybody in America knows that right now.

SEVERSON: Dave Miller runs God’s Love and gives 10 percent of his salary back to the shelter.

DAVE MILLER: Yeah, we’ve seen a big change. Every day we have families that come in and say, “My husband had a great job making a lot of money. He got laid off. We can’t make next month’s rent.” Unfortunately, it used to be just couples. Now we’re seeing them with children.

SEVERSON: People like John and Krista Loweman, who is pregnant. Both were employed in South Carolina until they lost their jobs and came west looking for work and landed here.

post04-godslove(speaking to John Loweman): So you came here looking for work?

JOHN LOWEMAN: Yes, looking for work, anything, just a better life for me,my wife and my baby.

SEVERSON: But there was no jobs?

JOHN LOWEMAN: No, sir.

KRISTA LOWEMAN: Nothing, not even for me, and I’ve been to school.

ANN MILLER: We tell them that they can have three days no questions asked, just rest, eat, do their laundry, but after that they have to have a plan, and their plan usually is to find a job. But they can’t find a job.

SEVERSON: But if they can’t find a job, it doesn’t mean they have to leave, as long as they keep looking.

JOHN LOWEMAN: You have to put in five applications a day at least, and I do that every day but, you know, it’s kind of hard.

KRISTA LOWEMAN: It’s better than living in a car, though.

SEVERSON: Better than living in a car. You lived in a car for how long?

KRISTA LOWEMAN: Six weeks.

post06-godsloveSEVERSON: Darcy Pfeiffer and her husband and baby boy live here. He works but can’t afford the rent. Brenda Rutecki’s husband died a year ago. She had no income, couldn’t get a job, came here while she attended school to become a certified nursing assistant.

BRENDA RUTECKI: You can’t get a job if you don’t have a phone. You can’t get a job if you don’t have a car. You can’t get a job if you don’t even have an address. So this is like our holding spot. We’re all good families. We’re all good people, but you’ve got to have a start, and that’s what they give us.

SEVERSON: One of the first things the Millers did was create a park next door to God’s Love just for the homeless. Having a homeless shelter and a park near the center of town was not exactly pleasing to local businessmen. But Toby DeWolf, owner of Bert and Ernies, says any opposition has faded away.

TOBY DEWOLF: I’ve been here 25 years, and I have never seen a better run shelter. I don’t think there’s a problem. I don’t think that anybody has seen an issue with any kind of violence or crime or anything by any means with having a shelter down here.

SEVERSON: The Millers both graduated from Catholic University in Washington, DC with master’s degrees. They have nine children, four of them adopted, and all of them, according to their father, are involved in one charity or another. There was a time when Wayne Miller, who is an expert on silver dollars, was measuring his life by the increasing value of his personal coin collection.

post07-godsloveWAYNE MILLER: You know, I open up these catalogs, and they’ve got coins there, $30,000 or $40,000, $50,000 coins that I would dearly love to have, and I look at them and I say okay, I chose my path. If I did that I would be obsessed with that, and again, my whole measurement would be how advanced is your coin collection? And I didn’t want that to be.

SEVERSON: It doesn’t mean the Millers live in poverty. They travel, eat in the best restaurants, live in a very nice home with a swimming pool, but customers often wonder how successful a man can be if he rarely wears shoes.

WAYNE MILLER: People say can’t you afford to wear shoes, and I say I can afford not to have to wear shoes.

SEVERSON: He provides the bulk of the funding for God’s Love, millions of dollars over the years, but the shelter also receives a federal grant, money from the United Way and from other private donors.

WOJTON: It’s amazing when I go out to a church or to the local college, and I speak, and I hear from people, and they say, “Oh, we just thought the Millers pay for everything,” and that’s not the case. Wayne and Ann are wonderful, and Wayne donates a lot of money to God’s Love, but we need the entire community effort to keep God’s Love up and operating every year.

ANN MILLER: And I think over the years we’ve learned to love God more and more, and he’s always been there for us. When we were thinking that maybe we weren’t going to have enough money or whatever, he’s always supplied it. It’s been wonderful—abundance, just like the Bible says.

SEVERSON: The Millers are also helping in various ways about 150 Helena families who don’t live in the shelter. Altogether, he gives away about one-third of his gross income and is firmly convinced that it’s what God wanted him to do.

WAYNE MILLER: I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like. I’m fascinated to learn what it’s going to be like, but I am as certain as I can be that there is an afterlife and that I’m really going to have fun.

SEVERSON: The truth is he’s having a pretty good time right now.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Lucky Severson in Helena, Montana.

  • anne

    I loved the quote “these are not problem people, but people with problems”.

  • katie

    I also loved the quote, ” these are not problem people, but people with problems. ” The Miller’s are very compassionate people! What a blessing they are to their community!

  • Dan

    When will people like and akin to Severson begin understanding, discussing, and advocating for the removal and replacement of a monetary based economy? When dealing with homelessness, un/underemployment, social stratification, structural violence, crime, drugs, addiction, malnutrition and most abuse what we are really dealing with correlates directly with a culture concerned with money – an imaginary resource. Im super proud of the guy for giving away 999 out of 1000 dollars – Fantastic – But what he’s doing is “buying” into an outdated philosophy and an institution designed to murder countless thousands everyday.

    A resource based economy is our answer – The Venus Project – The Zeitgeist Movement.
    I encourage you all to consider . . . the needs of the individual, family, community, and of our culture. Surly it is what your God would advocate on behalf of.

  • bint alshamsa

    Dan, can you complain somewhere else? You know, for all of your criticism, do you really think that your movement is helping more people in a tangible, quantifiable way than the Millers are? You’ve made a claim about Miller’s philosophy, but you have no proof that he thinks this way at all. This article (and his actions) make it quite clear that his is an entirely different philosophy from what you’re claiming.

    Furthermore, it’s all well and good to say that you have the key, the answer to all of society’s problems. It’s another thing to show and prove it. If the answer to all of our problems was as simple as you claim, do you really think that no one would have already implemented what you’re advocating? If your movement was really the answer, why haven’t its advocates gone in and taken care of these people who are suffering? Clearly, you are not equipped to aid these people, but you seriously assert that those who ARE aiding suffering people should stop what they are doing and switch to adhering to a philosophy that isn’t even as effective (at helping these people) as what it would replace.

    The God that the Miller’s believe in never advocated what you’re preaching. Instead, He taught that we must do exactly what the Millers are doing. They are showing the love that their God said would identify his true believers.

  • Dan

    http://www.thevenusproject.com/en/a-new-social-design/resource-based-economy

    I understand it is difficult for you to wrap your mind about what I have just stated. I encourage you to research how a monetary based economy contributes whole hardheartedly to structural violence – As an educator I am proud to state honestly . . . “I am combating your beliefs . . . especially with regard to religion.”

    In your spare time . . . peruse “Violence” written by Dr. James Gilligan, MD
    We can overcome the fear and consumption model promoted by your monetary based economy (based on scarcity) and your religion (based solely on fear).

  • Dan

    In summation . . . There is absolutely NO reason anyone need be home/houseless . . .
    Respectfully,
    DW

  • deerail

    hi dave long time no see im home sick i may be comming home about the end of summer im saving my money so i hopfully wont come back homeless i think of you all often please say hi to folks for me.

  • rosina spaulding

    homelessness DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE it can happen to anyone @ anytime. There is always unforseen circumstances & all of us are just one step from it @ any given time, if we think we are not than we are highly mistaken & do not live in reality. Crap happens & that is just the way the ball rolls. That is the balance of life there is good & bad days for all of us. the yin & yang of life. That is what happens to imperfect people in an imperfect world. that is what we call Life while we are trying to make other plans. I prefer to call it the curve ball of life. If our politicians & government would stop wasting so much money & start to really consider our well being instead of getting themselves RICH then everyone would have a home. Our country going in the crapper is a big result of who we vote for & who we trust with our freedoms. We tend to trust the wrong people vote them in without doin proper research on them & then spend the next however many yrs [expletive removed] about what we caused!!! No one thinks to take responsiblity of causing our demise. So, the moral of this story is that we should all take resposiblity for being part of the problem & try to focus more on being part of the solution. If everyone gave according to what they could afford then the entire world WOULD be a better place right!!! Perhaps we are not all meant to be rich but there is Always something we can contribute even if it is just helping by giving some of your time & energy to the causes. A little can go a long way. I am a single struggling mother of a cystic fibrosis young adult daughter & believe me even I have found ways to make a HUGE difference in alot of other’s lives & I enjoy the heck out of myself by doing it. For one thing it gets me out of my reality for awhile & I focus on other’s challenges. Thats what makes the world run better is everyone chipping in & helping their fellow man because we are all gunna go through those ups & downs. We are all in this together & no one gets out alive. So, lets just stop the frikon bickering about who’s got it better than who & just pitch in & help. Is that asking too much????

  • Greg

    I have stayed at this mission a couple times. Once in 1995 and for a couple weeks in 2010. They treat everybody that comes through with dignity and respect and are willing to help in any way they can. This is truly a special place.

  • Edna

    I am a long supporter of PBS & love Religion & Ethics… I saw your segment and was so moved… you’ll all be in my thoughts & prayers for continued success and pray for the families staying there… God Bless you all!!

  • Al Quackenbush

    i am looking to you for a hand up. I am fighting stomach cancer and praying to be soon at the end. We have gone through most everything to get me here. I am looking forward to get back into scrapping to clean up America and my own community. Unfortunately I no longer have a truck and I can’t get any financing. Is there anyone in your group of Gods Loving people that will trust an honest person to finance a rollback truck so that i can get back to my , what I believe God wants from me to help clean the world, so that I can purchase the type of truck I need to start again. I would pay back the loan as I run my loads, I don’t believr in begging or borrowing and I don’t steel, but I am in this place and want to get back to living again and cleaning for God I pray everyday that there is someone that will trust in me so that I can pay not only my bills but the truck too. Gods Blessings to You and Yours

  • Dana

    I used to volunteer at Gods Love and knew Ann, Wayne and Dave for several years. There is something very wonderful about this place and these people. I came west as well… looking for a new start and my car broke down and God literally delivered me into their hands. They have hearts of gold. Its too bad that you cant find this sort of thing in the bigger cities… the understanding and compassion… the hand up.

    It is truelly Gods Country… and when you’ve touched it you will never forget.

  • Helen De Santis

    My husband was the manager of ASARCO 1982-85. I was the president of the YWCA and I was on your
    committee when you first started Gods Love Incorporated. I happened to see Gods Love Inc. on the internet,
    and was very happy to hear it was still in existence. I have told people about you many times and all that you
    started to do. God Bless You Wayne. I still work helping people, mainly children. I belong to the Assistance
    League here is El Paso. We have School Bell which is a signature program of the National Assistance
    League formed in California, there are 122 chapter throughout the US. We cloth needy school children with 3 sets of clothes, tennis shoes, jacket and school supplies. We have kits for rape victims, and bears for the police, firemen, ems, & Ronald McDonald House. We get grants & donations to support these programs. We clothed 3,640 children last year and hope for more this year. Just good memories when I lived in Montana and now is Texas.
    Helen

  • kerry

    I don’t live in the area but I heard my dad stayed there and frequently comes there my name is Kerrydale my dad’s name is Kerry Dale Blackburn but he goes by the name Dale, I have been searching for him most of my life.
    I have not seen him since I was around 5 yrs old.
    His birthday is 2/3/54 he is a white mail with grey hair and blue eyes he has a tattoo of a peacock and a tattoo of the word GRIM on his right arm.
    If you hear from him please help me by telling him his son Kerrydale has found him and wants to talk to him even if just by text, my cell phone number is 360-556-4163 ty so much