The morning is still dark, but already lines are forming. On the sidewalk out front, men hunch against the cold, waiting for the doors to open. At the back door, they sit around picnic tables, smoking and talking. Women, children and families can go in a half-hour early, but the single men must wait till 7:30.
He says: "These people are family. They're not guests. These are friends. It's so much easier to help a friend than to help a client."
This is Corpus Christi House, a house of hospitality for people who have nowhere else to go. Overnight shelters close at 7 a.m., so this is the morning ritual: breakfast and a cup of coffee, a shower, laundry, mail, a kind word.
"We treat them with dignity. We say that they're made in the image and likeness of God - all people, whether they're drunk, drugged or whatever. And we treat them that way."
It's just about 7:25 when Henry Krewer arrives, as he has done every day, six days a week, for the 10 years that Corpus Christi has been open. His arms are laden with boxes of leftover donated food from a nearby deli that will add to the cereal and yogurt for breakfast and, if there's enough, afternoon snacks.
"It's cold," he says. He glances at the clock, visible through the window, and nods at the men, letting them in a few minutes early. "Thanks, Henry," says someone in line.
"We don't necessarily expect to change their lives. We expect to serve them and hopefully, in doing that, they have an environment where they can change. The expression is: We want to create an environment where it's easy to be good."
It takes a while for Henry to make his way across the room to the coffee pot. He knows everyone, it seems, and if they don't have a question for him, he's got one for them. "How'd it go yesterday?" he asks one man. "Did you get gas?" he queries another. "How's your health?"
"The idea is that we're all made to the image and likeness of God, and part of being God is being creative. So we have a creative call, and our creative call is to make the world a little bit better than what we found."
Henry is the go-to guy at Corpus Christi, which is an all-volunteer staff. The place does run without him, but he's clearly the calming force, the heart of the place. "If you've ever seen a saint who cusses a little, that's Henry," offers a longtime volunteer.
"A Christian is more than just going to church. A Christian is to be Christlike; being Christlike is to change the world and make it better.
"And it's not only a Christian call; it's a human call - all human beings are called to make it a better world."
In the teeny shared office, or cup of coffee in hand in a chair along the wall of the common area, Henry dispenses bus passes, smoothes ruffled feathers, offers father-like advice or gentle admonishment, and always, consistent encouragement. He's on their side, and they know it.
"The way you get into trouble is when you decided what you can do to help people get out of homelessness. ...
"That's wrong. You just help people and people will learn. They will do what's right if given the opportunity; it's not your doing. You can't take pride in the success that people have of straightening out their lives. (But) they can be very proud. ...
"As I say, we try to create an environment were it's easy to be good, to have dignity. And it's hard. I'm not saying we're saints or we're doing it, but that's our goal. And in a way, that's my job, to see that it's being done."
Henry is 80 years old. Although these years are his retirement, this sense of service is also his life. He was born during the Depression and raised in Catholic-and-Jewish Brooklyn, N.Y., during World War II. It was a time of poverty and of sacrifice - an upbringing he calls one of the blessings of his life.
"We were all poor and we all helped each other. If someone would say, 'Hey, the person down the block needs help,' it would be unthinkable not to help.
"I always say that the Jews taught me justice and the Catholics taught me compassion."
Too young to join the military when his friends did, Henry instead joined the Franciscans. Teaching brothers are not ordained, but they take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and this was how Henry began what would become a lifetime of teaching, beginning in low-income schools in Brooklyn.
After 15 years, frustrated by segregation and also the rising tuition that was keeping poor kids out of private Catholic schools, Henry left the Franciscans and volunteered to work for two years with the Carrier Indian Tribe in British Columbia. (For the first year, $25 a month; for the second, $50 a month. "You felt like a millionaire.")
"You learn more when you go to a place like that than you give, you know. You think you're going there and you're going to be good for them - and the students are good for you. ...
"It's a different culture. It broadens you. It's a new way of looking at pretty much everything. ...
"You experience the same thing when you work with the homeless, helping people who live on the streets. I have no experience in that, and yet you see how they live - and you learn. You learn from them. It's an unexpected gift."
Henry's future wife, Kathy, was also a volunteer in Canada. After they married, they moved to California and finally to Boise in 1975, where they raised their daughter and Henry taught science for 20 years (as well as coached) at Bishop Kelly. He retired in 1996.
Along the way, Henry volunteered. He drove a cart at Saint Alphonsus Hospital; he worked at the Learning Lab, with refugees and at St. Vincent de Paul. But once he and Kathy began working with homeless people, he found his next calling.
"There were a lot of people working at Saint Al's; there were a lot of people working at the lab, a lot of people working with refugees. ...
"There was nobody working with the homeless during the day, so that all of sudden took on a great importance - no one was doing it. And that got my Catholic Worker genes going: You see something that's needed, don't wait for other people to come do it. You do it, as best you can."
Henry and a group of friends had been part of a book club studying Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement (founded in 1933 and committed to fighting poverty and injustice). They organized Corpus Christi House, which opened in 2003 as a day shelter for the homeless.
"We do things, that we think (the homeless) need, to help them. (Sometimes) the question in your mind comes: When are we helping and when are we enabling? ... That's always a problem.
"But we don't address that. We just follow the 'corporal works of mercy' from Matthew 25: 'I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was in prison and you visited.' That's very important to us, that we fulfill that call."
As part of the community of friends that Corpus Christi has become, each time someone from the homeless community dies, Henry organizes a simple memorial service. Tables are cleared of coffee cups and the card games stop; someone puts on appropriate music, and the conversations soften.
The service is Christian-based, but Henry includes everyone. It's a time for reflection, for Corpus Christi friends to share memories, and a time in which Henry reminds everyone of a bigger vision.
"Sometimes people who are homeless, who are addicted to drugs and to alcohol are considered cast-off. But not with God.
"God is love. Not only for (the people who have died) but also for ourselves. You've always got to remember that. You are not junk. ...
"We know about God from Scripture, from nature, and we know from each other. You reflect God at times.
"There's a saying of St. Francis: 'Wherever you go, preach the gospel. And if everything else fails, use words.'
"I think that's what we do. We do not make them pray; we just let them know we're Christian, we're Catholic, we're people of faith. Our kindness to them is our sermon."
Know someone living "from the heart"? Idaho Statesman photojournalist Katherine Jones spotlights someone in the Treasure Valley who influences our lives not only by what they do, but how and why they do it. Do you know someone we should know? Call 377-6414 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
HENRY ON HUMAN NATURE