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Former addict helps women get help, see hope at Delaware church

Site Coordinator Katie Mueller ministers to women experiencing homelessness. She can empathize. Photo from Grace Seaford Church,

SEAFORD, Del. (BP) – Like many other houses of worship, Grace Seaford Church opens its doors during cold weather to provide shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness. But while many places provide a night or even a week, Grace offers housing to women from Dec. 1 to March 15.

This year, when the last day rolled around, there were no women left. The church had helped most find long-term housing, and some entered rehab facilities. Three have been baptized.

Working through the Love INC Code Purple program, the church hosts the women’s shelter from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. each day. They provide a warm, safe night’s sleep, and other local churches partner by bringing food. Most nights, there are six to ten women.

“We’ve had as many as 15, and every once in a while, you’ll have ladies bring children with them,” said Larry Davis, Grace Seaford Church senior pastor. “It’s always hard to see a family that is homeless bringing kids to a shelter, but it does happen.”

One of the primary reasons the women were able to transition to other housing is the work and commitment of the church’s Code Purple site coordinator Katie Mueller, whose own past gives her a special insight into the needs of many of the women.

“I started drinking heavily when I was 14, and from there went to Percocet, heroin, and coke,” Mueller said.

She was in a downward spiral. At one point a few years ago, she and her fiancé, Dustin Taylor, were experiencing homelessness, sleeping under bridges, in abandoned houses, wherever they could, and doing anything needed to get by. Circumstances worsened when the couple got MRSA. Mueller had it on her legs. Taylor had the infection on his arms and it got bad. When he became delirious, Mueller called an ambulance, and Taylor was in the hospital for 51 days, fearing for his life.

Mueller continued using drugs and said she was lost without Taylor. She had no one else.

“I tried killing myself. I had shot three grams of coke and still didn’t die. I should be dead,” she said. But then Mueller’s little brother showed up with her daughter, and everything changed. Mueller knew she had to get better for her daughter. She sees now that God orchestrated that turning point.

“My daughter was staying with my dad, and he wouldn’t bring her to me. So when she showed up, I thought, ‘This is my lifeboat. I need to get in it.’ I went to rehab, then a halfway house,” she said. In rehab, she began studying the Bible. Taylor recovered, and the couple started working in a chicken factory while living in a hotel.

God led them to a recovery meeting at Grace Seaford Church, and they felt they were coming home.

“We fell in love with Danny Guzman, pastor of family ministries and recovery,” she said. “He’s the ‘realest’ person we’ve ever met. We’ve stayed sober for two years. … We have an accountability team, and coming to Bible studies keeps us focused on the Word. We’re here for a reason, and we are telling our story.”

When Davis chose Mueller as the site coordinator, she was nervous, but she said the church gently pushed her forward and supported her. She has gone above and beyond in the position, while working full-time, caring for her daughter and going to college.

“Katie is the perfect, passionate leader,” Davis said.

Mueller discovered that not all of the women who came to the shelter were addicted to substances, but many were.

“A lot of people I ran with on the streets came through the doors,” she said. “When they saw me sober, they asked me what happened, and I said ‘God happened.’ I couldn’t save myself.”

The shelter’s basic requirement was to give the women a safe place to stay at night. Mueller knew from experience that the women needed more. Though there were other overnight volunteers, Mueller was there most nights.

She spent time with the women, talked with them, and cared for them, and she would share meals with them.

“A lot went to Bible study and church. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of asking them,” she said.

Mueller also asked if they needed rides to rehab. People who are in need often want someone to walk them through the processes to get on their feet. “It wasn’t just a place for them to sleep. They had fellowship, and they saw hope,” she said.

Mueller says in recovery, it is said that you have to be rescued from a burning building – then you have to go back and rescue the others that are trapped. That’s what she’s trying to do.

    About the Author

  • Sharon Mager