Gavin Inspires Church to Provide a Solution to a Long-Term Discomfort in Downtown Durham

In July 2015, Gavin, a rising 7th grader, attended Asheville Youth Mission with a group from Duke Memorial UMC in Durham, NC. On his way from Durham to Asheville, Gavin came down with food poisoning– a time of serious, but short-lived discomfort that led him to realize the distinction between temporary and long-term discomfort.

Gavin says that his first few days at AYM were miserable. With little sleep and still feeling ill, he struggled to get through the first day at the job sites. He says, “I was miserable, but not for long.” A few days later, Gavin went with his group to Asheville’s Pritchard Park where they “spent time playing games, talking, and eating popsicles with people.” Pritchard Park is frequented by folks living on the streets in Asheville. It was here that Gavin began to realize the difference between his brief discomfort, and the long-term discomfort people on the streets face. Gavin says,

“The entire time we were with them, there were police circling us. A man was almost arrested for drinking a Coke because police thought it was alcohol. Gavin picHomeless people are not allowed to sleep or hang out on public property, including woods and parks. People don’t trust them. We learned that there is only one public restroom in that part of Asheville, and it isn’t even open twelve hours a day. These are examples of long-term discomfort.”


It was this last example of the restrooms that really sparked Gavin’s, and subsequently his congregation’s, interest in making a change. When the Duke Memorial youth group came home from AYM, Gavin told the rest of the congregation what they had seen and experienced there, and they noticed similarities between Asheville and their own community. Duke Memorial, like FPC Asheville, is located in the downtown area, which, like Asheville, has few restrooms available to the public. Gavin’s story inspired them to get the ball rolling on plans to install portable toilets on Duke Memorial’s property. Duke Memorial says, “It’s clean, private, and always open—to our homeless neighbors and anyone else in need of this basic amenity.”


Through Gavin’s story, and the work of Duke Memorial, one of our most basic necessities is now readily available to our friends on the streets in Durham, providing a little relief from the mass amount of discomfort they face everyday. The question then becomes, “How will we work to relieve this discomfort permanently? What can we do to ensure that our neighbors have not only a permanent place to use the restroom, but a permanent place to rest their heads?” What long-term discomfort are youth in your community working to ease? Let YMCo know at [email protected]!

We’ve also created a study guide to help your youth discuss short- and long-term discomforts in your community. View it here!

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