News - Serving the Homeless in D.C.

Serving the Homeless in D.C.

Serving the Homeless in D.C.

Megan Burt is a 2006 graduate of Greenville College. She went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC. Burt helps rehabilitate homeless individuals at an organization called Pathways to Housing DC. She credits Greenville College for helping her grasp the depth of Christian faith by allowing her to wrestle with the questions that accompany the faith journey. Burt's college experience helped lead her to a career serving others.

Q: How did you get to Greenville College?

A:  I transferred to Greenville College my junior year. My family had a tradition (mom, sister, uncle) of going to GC and I had initially wanted to break that mold. I went to a school as far away as possible, but always found something missing. I wanted to dive into the Christian faith and the unknowns of the faith journey, and the school I initially went to did not do that. I knew GC through my sister's experience and remembered the long conversations she and I would have about faith. I loved those times together and I knew that Greenville College would be a place that was comfortable diving into those questions with me.

Q: What did you study at Greenville College?

A: I majored in religion, with a minor in sociology.

Q: What types of activities were you involved in on campus?

A: I was involved in a lot of activities while at GC. I participated in choir, chamber singers, and residence life. As a resident chaplain, I planned the homecoming banquet and started the powder-puff football tournament. I also worked at Durley Youth Camp as a camp counselor for a summer, and stayed in touch with the camp throughout the year.

Q: How did you get from Greenville College to where you are now?

A: My journey was anything but a straight one. Growing up in Southern Illinois, I did not encounter a lot of poor and oppressed that were visibly obvious. Now it's something that I am faced with daily, at every turn.

I always knew that I wanted to help people outside of the church walls, but I didn't know that my path would lead me to where I am now. After graduation, I pursued student development because I loved the relationships that you could build with others just by sharing life with them. However, GC whetted my appetite for academics and the tension that exists in the world of the church, and I knew that I wanted to learn more.  

I received my Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC, where I was inundated with theology and practice. I took courses that dealt with social justice, but it was not until I started sharing weekly meals with the homeless and taking classes alongside prisoners, that I really began to understand what social justice could look like in practice.

I began exploring what it would mean to come alongside those who are suffering from poverty, mental illness, incarceration, and homelessness. I realized that I couldn't assume to know what people needed unless I asked them. The best way to find out what people really need is to simply ask and share life with them to learn. I was able to find a job doing just that.  

Q: Where do you currently work?

A: I work for an agency called Pathways to Housing DC that provides the highest level of support outside of a hospital for chronically mentally ill homeless individuals. We provide wrap around services for individuals who are currently or formerly homeless, which includes substance abuse counseling, psychiatric services, vocation/educational rehabilitation services, clinical therapy, nursing/health/nutrition services, and housing. I have been able to walk alongside people through all the stages of recovery, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and able to see and hear firsthand what people really want and need to meet their needs. 

Q: What memorable experiences at Greenville College influenced your choices along the way?

A: Living in community was the best possible thing for my growth. At Greenville, I learned what it means to really walk alongside people, day in and day out. The open dialogue with faculty and students about the struggle that the Christian journey can be really helped me to grasp the true depth of the Christian faith. Without that ability to live in the struggle, and the questions, I would not have been able to pursue the field that I am in. Mental illness doesn't make sense any other way.

Q: What memorable person(s) at Greenville College impacted you, and how?

A: I loved Ruth Huston and her reckless abandon to be who she was. Ruth was always there to have coffee and chat about life's challenges and the struggle of coming to age.

Q: What keeps you working in your current field? What motivates you?

A: Being able to see people through the cycles of their mental illness and walk alongside them has helped keep me motivated. We celebrate the small victories because they are so important for recovery. Also, being able to see individuals who have struggled with homelessness for so long, successfully transition into an independent apartment is amazing. On average, we are housing about one to five chronically homeless individuals each week. And they are transitioning into permanent, individual apartments where they will live independently. It is amazing to see the look in a person's eyes when you hand them their keys for the first time. 

Q: What do you want today's Greenville College students to know? 

A: The Christian journey is just that, a journey. It does not always make sense. It does not always make us feel good. Embrace the tension because it is in that tension that we truly find grace and faith. We cannot reason our way in it or out of it, though we often try. College was the first place where I had to face that, and I am so thankful for the community of Greenville College for walking alongside me during that process. You are not yet who you are going to be, but you are on your way.  

This story was published on January 16, 2013

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