Meet Sheila Houston, the newest member of the Faith & Family Homelessness team! Sheila is a Seattle native and lifelong advocate for vulnerable women and children. In the video below, Sheila speaks to what brought her to STM and FFH, how she has experienced domestic violence and homelessness in her own life, and what she and other faith leaders can do to educate and engage their communities around social justice issues like family homelessness. We’re thrilled to have Sheila on board!
Sheila was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, part of a large family with eight sisters and five brothers. In our interview, she shared some of her own struggle as a young mother living in poverty with an abusive spouse. While with her first husband, she experienced homelessness twice. The first time, she ended up on the streets and in a shelter with her young son to escape her husband’s violence. She described her experience in this way: “It’s not that [my parents] wouldn’t have helped me, but I didn’t want to tell because, you know, you have shame. And so, I ended up finding myself on the streets – my son and I. And I can remember just being in the shelter at that time. . . it really was a lonely place, and it was really hard because I just didn’t know what to do – I was already wounded, I already felt lonely, and now I had my son, and I just didn’t know where to go.”
The second time Sheila experienced homelessness, she was in California with her three young children. Due to her husband’s chronic lack of employment, Sheila and her children were forced to live in their car for a while and later, with another family. One day, she recalls that her husband just disappeared: “[He] left us in a strange person’s home. And I’ll tell you, it was really devastating. . . I went to a church to try to get help, and, I mean, the people didn’t really talk. And it was really difficult. . . until I finally decided, well you know what, I don’t know what to do, but I’m going back to Seattle and going home.”
Today, Sheila is a pastor and passionate advocate for vulnerable women and children and has been particularly involved in the anti-sex trafficking movement. She sees the need for pastors to preach an active faith and encourage their congregants to take initiative, finding solutions when they see a need in their neighborhood. Members of her own church in Renton have done just that and, as a result, the church community as a whole is engaged in direct service and community development, including a community meal program for teenagers called “The Table.”
Sheila encourages people of faith to find where the need is and “begin to just do the work.” She says, “As pastors, we need to continue to preach the Gospel about what we should be doing. . . not just being in the church and its four walls but [asking] how do we engage community.”
Sheila is currently studying at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, pursuing her Doctor of Ministry.