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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Snedden

Marion Owen - More than just a doctor

We moved to Decatur in 2000, after my husband and I completed our graduate degrees, I have worked as a Family Medicine doctor in this community since then. After raising my 2 children, with my loving husband, I was looking for a way to respond to the call from my upbringing to "be of service."

I was approached by a friend involved in AHFED and asked to help on the board. Though I know my own skills are more "project and activity" oriented, I agreed to try a more planning role. It has been a challenge for me that I am very glad I took on. In addition to the board work, I also volunteered to spend the night at the winter freeze shelters we organized in our first two years of activity. That hands-on work was much more important to me in a personal way, because tangible results motivate me. I would return home tired, it seems I'm getting too old to sleep comfortably on a mat, but really energised and happy that I had made it possible for those folks to be warm and safe through the winter night.

I have served in the role of a contact and support person for one of the families we helped settle into an apartment. My role was to learn their needs and try to find resources, like furniture and household items, as they were needed. I found that direct connection challenging in new ways but also felt my work was of immediate use. I used my own challenges from that experience to help draft our policies for volunteers who will fill that role for us with others placed in housing. I hope that guidance helps folks clarify boundaries and serve our population effectively. It is a job that needs doing and is a very intimate way to help our cause. The call to push my boundaries in this was daunting, but I am glad I did it and it came with the added bonus of spending time with their lovely young children, something I cannot have too much of.

I have also helped with the planning for purchasing our first house to provide more permanent housing for some of our unhoused neighbors. I am thrilled to see this project coming to fruition and I hope we can prove that this model most effectively solves our housing crisis. Though this "one at a time" approach feels slow in light of the urgency of the problem, I am thrilled we are figuring out how to respond to the Housing First approach that has proven so successful in other communities.

My work with AHFED has provided real focus and energy for me. Though I am still learning to be a patient committee member, that too has been an opportunity for growth. We can't wait until we "know how to do it" to step into the fray and start pulling the rope for a more compassionate and healthy community. I have been deeply rewarded by every project I have taken on and I hope you will consider joining us in our future work.

Find out how YOU can join our volunteer team here

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