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Sep 15, 2016 | Bob Butle

St. Dunstan’s Assists New Neighbors No One Else Wanted

 

New neighbors were moving in unlike others we had seen before. They traveled light, slept where they could and huddled in our doorways on rainy nights. They pitched tents at the rear of our church property and charged their cell phones at our outdoor outlets.

 

It was obvious that the homeless needed our help and with a taskforce in place, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Houston, went to work, naming the new outreach effort, filing incorporation papers, requesting 501(C)3 status and searching for property. But no one wanted us as neighbors. Local businesses feared our clientele would drive theirs away.

 

We finally were able to negotiate a deal on a piece of rundown property that required months of renovation and we opened the doors to the 1960 Community Hope Center on August 29th, a 3000 sq. ft. suite in a small strip center in front of Northwest Medical Center.

 

While conceived at St. Dunstan’s, the Hope Center is gathering an interdenominational set of partners with more than a dozen congregations providing volunteers, goods and finances. The Hope Center is blessed with strong financial backing from St. Dunstan’s and a generous grant from the Episcopal Health Foundation.

 

The center’s tag line is “Dignity Through Hospitality.” Our guests are offered the opportunity to shower, get fresh clothing, have their clothes washed, enjoy a day in air-conditioning, have lunch, watch TV, get counseling, have a haircut, attend a Bible study or AA meeting. For those who need the help, we offer assistance in finding housing and getting an ID and food stamps. If we cannot do it, we refer to those who can.

 

Twenty to thirty grateful guests daily move through the Center. Their stories are sad, their lives on the street are at risk for robbery, rape, malnutrition and illness. Many struggle with mental health issues, but for a few hours a day they come into the safe sanctuary of the Hope Center, lay down their backpacks and breathe deeply. Jesus is present all the time. We see him in their eyes, we feel him as he moves us with his compassion. Our guests trust him as they drop their prayer requests in the prayer box.

 

Butler has a D. Min. in theology and is executive director of the 1960 Community Hope Center. Volunteer at: www.1960hopecenter.com

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