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Love for the homeless: Blessed are the pure in heart

Deanna Espinoza, Joann O’Brien, Thaddius and Phil Espinoza, from left, visited their friend Rick Hauxhurst in the hospital Oct. 31. The friends are all homeless or recently homeless Federal Way residents and currently volunteer with God’s Love. Hauxhurst was admitted to the hospital days earlier due to a shortness of breath. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Deanna Espinoza, Joann O’Brien, Thaddius and Phil Espinoza, from left, visited their friend Rick Hauxhurst in the hospital Oct. 31. The friends are all homeless or recently homeless Federal Way residents and currently volunteer with God’s Love. Hauxhurst was admitted to the hospital days earlier due to a shortness of breath.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Life has become increasingly busy for Dionne Agostini, who, with the assistance of homeless volunteers, is helping the less fortunate escape Federal Way’s streets.

When Agostini began handing out necessities to the city’s homeless last year, it was the start of what has become the nonprofit organization God’s Love.

God’s Love has grown substantially. It now aides approximately 200 of the city’s homeless. In the past year, she has assisted 35 people in finding stable housing, Agostini said.

Agostini is someone the homeless can depend on to provide a helping hand and loving hug, said Rick Hauxhurst of Federal Way.

“Dionne just does it,” he said. “She doesn’t have to follow anyone but her conscience and Jesus.”

Agostini and trusted volunteers — some of whom are homeless, including Hauxhurst — frequent Wal-Mart. There, visitors can donate cash or items such as sleeping bags, blankets, tents or socks to the nonprofit. All items go to those living on the streets. Agostini uses the money to purchase necessities for the homeless and never gives them cash, she said.

She keeps a photo album of the men and women she meets. She knows their stories, names, former occupations, illnesses and specific needs for survival. She does more than raise money. Agostini is a personal taxi, landlord, friend, advisor and much more to Federal Way’s homeless population. Those who need her services have her phone number. She drives them to medical appointments, listens to their thoughts and scours Craigslist.org in search of free items, such as furniture to adorn their new places. At times, she even takes them into her home.

“It’s time consuming,” said Agostini, who lives in Fife and works in Federal Way. “It could be 24/7 if I let it.”

Aid for the soul

To Agostini, a deeply religious woman, every person is created equal and each deserves to be loved, respected and looked over, she said.

She is well aware the majority of people she meets on the streets are there because of a drug addiction.

“Ninety-five percent of homeless are addicted (to drugs),” Agostini said. “You have to deal with the soul before you deal with the addiction.”

Most of those she helps have accepted God into their lives. Agostini encourages the homeless to lean on God to help them through their tough times.

“I really submerge them into God without forcing them,” she said.

She requires nothing back. But people often are skeptical of Agostini and want to know what the homeless population is doing for itself, she said.

“We try to educate and explain, they got themselves in this situation one way or another and, yeah, they have addictive behaviors, but does that make them not worthy of having a roof over their head or a meal?” Agostini said.

Couple in need

Deanna and Phil Espinoza were a couple looking for these things when Agostini met them at a community dinner for the needy.

She extended an offer they may never be able to repay. The couple, who have battled their own addictions, depression and physical ailments, asked Agostini for help in acquiring a tent. Instead, she offered them her home.

The Espinozas are the second couple Agostini has taken in. Phil, 51, a Vietnam veteran, suffers seizures and has had trouble finding work due to his condition. Deanna, 45, went through tough times when her husband of 13 years passed away when she was 35.

Phil was a friend of her late husband and together they tried to get through the pain. Deep depression led to Deanna’s series of failed attempts to commit suicide and kick an addiction to cocaine.

“Crack (cocaine) filled the pain. It became a way of life,” she said.

Phil was dealing with physical restrictions and addiction himself.

“We had our own addiction demons we had to fight knocking on our door,” Deanna said.

The couple jumped from home to home and job to job before meeting Agostini. She showed them respect and understood that people make mistakes. Deanna is now Agostini’s helping hand with God’s Love, and Phil is quite the handy man around the house. The couple recently were approved for low-income housing and plan to move into their own place next month.

“I’m just at awe when I look at Phil and think this is a normal life,” Deanna said.

Deanna was baptized and the couple firmly believe God is on their side. Speaking out about their situation is important because it may help others realize they do not have to continue the addiction cycle, Deanna said.

“The sin and our homeless status had the power because we weren’t speaking it out loud so we could take control and responsibility,” Deanna said in an e-mail. “If Phillip and I speak it out loud now with our testimony, we hope that others will be able to address their issues because they will be able to see a face, relate to an experience and have hope.”

Receiving love and support from God and others has motivated the Espinozas to focus on what they need to do to better themselves, she said.

“We’ve got our dignity and self-respect back,” Phil said. “I haven’t felt this kind of love from God in a long time.”

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565

Check it out:

Agostini is looking for volunteers to assist her in operating God’s Love. Interested parties may contact her at (253) 632-1954.

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