"House of Mercy: A Place to Live," Gaston Gazette (08/25/1991)

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"House of Mercy: A Place to Live," Gaston Gazette (08/25/1991)


Bo Peterson




Article describing everyday life for residents at House of Mercy, and the impact the home as had on their lives and outlook.


Gastonia, NC


Gaston Gazette



House of Mercy Archive: Binder 1 (1990-1999)



The caring, that's the main part, I guess. I've found somebody that cares for you. It gives you something to live for.
- Gene, a resident of House of Mercy

By Bo Petersen
Gazette Staff Reporter

BELMONT -Sister Mary packs a water pistol because a good day at the House of Mercy usually involves a water fight.

The House of Mercy is a home for people with AIDS who have nowhere else to go.

Opened in May by the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order of nuns, the six-bed Mercy house now has six residents.

The men are from Gaston County or the Charlotte area. Most had qualms about moving to the house. But they
were alone and scared.

"I had it in my mind it was a barracks-type building with bunks rolled up against the wall," said Gene, 47.

Ken, 40, felt he had given up.

Larry, 43, arrived with the shakes, numb in his left arm and leg. He expected to get a religious hard sell of guilt.

“What we walked into was just love," Larry said. "The house is created for people who want to live with their AIDS, not die from it."

Only a few weeks later, Larry no longer twitches. The numbness is gone. He meditates hours a day.

At the Mercy house, there's no isolation, judgment, rejection - "that's all kind of left in the parking lot," said Beth Maren, residence director.

From the wide living room to the dining room with its chandelier to the sunroom and its glass table; the house feels like nothing so much as a place to live.

Donnie, 25, putters at a washing machine in his bear-paw slippers.

Larry teases about not being able to get good help as he fetches a second cup of coffee.

The men and the five staff members pitch in to make a household and a life.

They play cards in the sun room. They huddle with each other drinking hot chocolate as they watch the the horror movie, "The Stranger Within."

"We look out for each other," Donnie said. "This house is full of hugs."

"I guess we live like a family," Ms. Maren said.

"The caring, that's the main part, I guess," Gene said. "I've found somebody that cares for you. It gives you something to live for."

Sister Mary Wright directs the Mercy house operation and money-raising. It's designed to operate on a $166,000-a-year budget. Medicaid money, grants and donations are paying for it.

The washer and dryer are gifts - blanked-out, coin-operated machines. The fountain out back was a gift. A piano is on its way from the Sisters of Mercy motherhouse.

A few programs are held per week. A priest visits regularly.

The men are encouraged to live independently. Family and friends drop by to cook meals. "Love Connection" is on the television each night.

Some days, the men are stronger than others. But all of them have gained weight and sleep better since they arrived.

"This house is a gift. It truly is beautiful,” Ms. Maren said. "You have to be walking in their shoes to understand what it means to them."

When Donnie heard about the Mercy house, he was living alone in a run-down boarding room expecting "trouble," he said. He has had AIDS six years.

As Ms. Maren took his call at midnight. she heard a gunshot, yelling and sirens in the background.

"He was afraid for his life," she said. "He needed someone to talk to." As she talks about it, the memory gives her goose bumps.

"We're very fortunate," Donnie said.

"I don't have to think about somebody walking into my apartment and finding me dead." Ken said. "I don't have to think about that."

TO DONATE: Contributions to the House of Mercy may be sent to P.O. Box 808, Belmont, N.C. 28012

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