Word on the Street Issue 21, May 2022

By Jacob Hieter

There is an angel at Interfaith who rocks a Def Leppard t-shirt. Her name is Alexys and she is our honorary Leppardet. I know her as a fellow kindred spirit who shares a great taste in music. Alexys is a kind of Jill of all trades at the shelter. Serving at Interfaith she helps in the laundry room, performs nightly guest check-ins, sets up the dining area for dinner and has helped take care of the children. Furthermore, many of our homeless can’t imagine the shelter without her. Don’t let her soft exterior fool you because she is not a pushover. Trust me I am not foolin’ about that.

Alexys graced our presence after being inspired by a presentation by Jodi Peterson-Stigers her freshman year in college. After hearing the presentation Alexys became very emotional. “I remember leaving the class feeling very inspired by Jodi,” she said. Later she was given the opportunity to volunteer at Interfaith as part of her service learning experience. “Interfaith was on the list of opportunities but it had limited spots. I made sure to be the first one to sign up,” she recalled about the experience. Later she was approached by Jordan, Interfaith’s then-Shelter director, who offered her a paid position at the shelter. It was an offer she couldn’t resist.

Working at a homeless shelter can often be stressful, especially during this pandemic, but despite these trials Alexys has become a ‘rock of ages’ for many of our homeless. In regards to her mental health she replied, “I rely a lot on my family and friends for support, I also value my independent time to be alone. I also engage in therapy when I need it. I think everybody should have a therapist. I’m okay with asking for help when I need it, when I am having a rough day at work.” Additionally, when asked about the pandemic she responded, “We are invincible as a shelter. We can really handle anything that comes our way. We do it with grace, we do it as a team. Not only do I love the guests here, but all of my co-workers. I wouldn’t have been able to get through this COVID-19 pandemic without them and their support.”

Alexys is passionate about serving the homeless and her kindness builds a kinship of care and value. She takes the time to listen to guests’ stories as she helps new travelers find a place to sleep for the night. Alexys remembers helping a man laying on the burning pavement in the scorching summer heat find a place to sleep inside for the night. He lost his house in a fire which made him homeless and on the street. Another guest, who was another avid Leppard listener, asked Alexys to hang a picture of his dearly departed wife on the whiteboard. She remembers him beaming with euphoria as he stared at it all night.

Alexys’s love of classic rock helps many of us, including myself, connect and relate to her better. Other than “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” I asked her what her favorite Def Leppard songs are to which she replied, “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak, Rock of Ages and Love Bites.” Just as much as she likes Def Leppard, many of our homeless love having her here. Thank you, Alexys, for staying and serving here at the shelter even after graduation with a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. About her decision to continue her service at the shelter, she replied “It makes me really emotional to think about leaving the shelter. I truly feel that I am not ready to leave and there is more for me to do here and more for me to learn.” She feels that Interfaith’s new building will open a lot of opportunities and she really wants to be a part of that and do her part to make it possible. Alexys is truly an angel in a Def Leppard t-shirt.