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Arundel House of Hope Brings Winter Relief

There’s room in the inn at local churches

Arundel House of Hope volunteers James Ellison, Della Ellison, Bess Michael, Karen Holland, Jean Kennedy, Leslie Wood (kneeling), name not known, Lauralee Provonche, Chuck Long and Patricia Smith.

Christmas is upon us; New Year’s to follow. It’s time for new beginnings.
    Just ask Oliver Sellman, now of Severna Park, who made a tough choice one Christmas season and, in the process, turned his life around.
    It happened in 2008, at a church along the Baltimore-Annapolis corridor, where Sellman was among the guests receiving shelter and spiritual support through Arundel House of Hope.
    Each year more than 75 Annapolis and Anne Arundel County churches open their doors to folks needing shelter through Arundel House of Hope’s Winter Relief program.

“Arundel House of Hope has given me the opportunity to be accountable to myself and others,” says Oliver Sellman, who now works for the shelter and support program.

    Since 1992, when it sheltered eight people, the program has expanded into three sites, each following a weekly rotation of host churches. So far this winter, it has sheltered an average of 96 guests per night.
    “We don’t call our clients homeless people,” says Glen Burnie program director Phil Bailey. “They are people who are homeless, generally because they’ve lost hope. Something has gone wrong in their lives — often mental illness, substance abuse or both. None lacks the desire to work. But they badly need help, and they’re deserving of respectful treatment.”
    Oliver Sellman understands the need for support. He’s made mistakes, and he knows how it feels to be alone, frightened and utterly without prospects.
    An Annapolis native, Sellman was a family man in his 20s when he sank into cocaine addiction.
    In 2008, after a long stint in prison, Sellman vowed to get his life on track. Sheltering where he could, he pounded the pavement in search of work, struggling for self-sufficiency.
    Finally, at Glen Burnie’s Arundel House of Hope, Sellman found help in the form of emergency shelter, spiritual support and daytime training. At midafternoon during the cold months, he and other guests hopped aboard contract buses and rode to one of three host churches. There they enjoyed dinner, activities, a shower, a night’s sleep and breakfast, after which buses returned them to the day center, box lunches in hand.
    In late December of that year, however, he reached a turning point.
    Sellman, then 53, was showering at an area church hosting Winter Relief when he was accosted and bullied by another guest.
    Later that evening, he found his attacker asleep on a cot. It was all too tempting — and so he turned to God.
    “I stood over that man and prayed so hard for restraint,” Sellman says. “Somehow, I controlled my rage.”
    Eight years later, Sellman is a new man. He’s made peace with his past and walked on with dignity.
    Thanks to training through the House of Hope, Sellman now manages its Doughy Dog Social Enterprise and a housing unit for people who are chronically homeless disabled; he also drives a bus. His clients respect him; his coworkers love him.
    “Arundel House of Hope has given me the opportunity to be accountable and responsible to myself and others,” Sellman says. “I try to teach our clients respect — for both themselves and for others. You can’t be respectful of others unless you respect yourself.”
    The three Chesapeake Country churches hosting Winter Relief from Christmas into the new year — Asbury United Methodist Church in Arnold, St. Andrew by the Bay in Annapolis and St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park — have kicked preparations into high gear.
    “This project requires year-round planning,” says Marge Tsitouris, third-year team leader at St. Andrew by the Bay. “We’re now fine-tuning our New Year’s Eve bash; there’ll be bingo, bluegrass music and plenty of noisemakers.
    “We’re thankful we can offer folks security, comfort and acceptance, if only for a week,” she says.
    They’ll be praying for new beginnings in the year to come.

Learn more about Arundel House of Hope: