Shamika Hodges serves on the front line of poverty at Catholic Charities of West Tennessee.
As the intake receptionist, Shamika sees more than 100 people every day. “You look in a kaleidoscope, and you see my day,’’ she says. “It’s chaotic. Not stressful, but chaotic.’’
Shamika manages intake for people requesting food and clothing from Catholic Charities. She also handles phone calls from people seeking assistance and directs clients of the Housing Ministry or Driving the Dream to their appointments.
“I love my job. I have been working since I was 15, and this is the only job where I never wake up in the morning and say, ‘I don’t feel like going to work’,” she said. “I just like helping people, and I love old people, and a lot of these people here are elderly.’’
People come into Catholic Charities to fill a variety of needs. Some need diapers, some are looking for housing, others need food or clothing or hygiene kits.
She points to the intake forms that clients have to fill out for services. “If I give out 30 of these, probably 20 can fill them out, but the other ten I am out there helping because they can’t read or write.’’
Shamika keeps order in the front lobby by combining her compassion with a direct approach. “I tell them I’m not trying to be nobody’s teacher or warden, but they can’t be skipping line.”
About three-fourths of the people who walk into the lobby of Catholic Charities daily are homeless, Shamika said. She gives out at least 40 walking bags a day. A walking bag contains a day of nutritional food that is easy to carry and open, such as tuna in a pop-top can, fruit cup and bottled water.
She has many repeat customers and said that clients often say, “What I like about that place is that Shamika calls me by my name when I walk in there.”
In Memphis, more than 1,220 people are homeless on any given day, according to the Point-in-Time Count by the Community Alliance for the Homeless. The Catholic Charities Housing Ministry provided rapid rehousing for 373 households last year.