DURAND — Two churches are working together to help families in the area by providing a temporary place to live and hope the community can help make it a reality.
“Not everybody is homeless because of poor decisions,” The Crossing Free Methodist Church pastor, Lisa Lahring, said. “There’s different kinds of homelessness, so we just want to provide resources that will provide hope and help them move forward with their lives.”
Light of Faith Fellowship is helping with the conversion of Crossing’s parsonage behind the church, 708 S. Oak St., which will be used as a shelter called House of Hope. It’s large enough to house a single family at one time.
“We looked at the parsonage and said ‘Hey, let’s turn this into a homeless shelter,’” Lahring said. “We want it to be a self-standing home for a couple or one person depending on who comes along first.”
She said use of the shelter is for temporary and/or emergency housing for no more than 30 days.
The goal is to have the temporary residence open by the end of May, but $4,000 is still needed for a few more renovations.
“We almost have it all painted,” Lahring said. “We have a few interior minor things to do that we’re working on before it goes through the city inspection. We need flooring, so we’re raising money for that.”
Lahring and White hope the community will continue to pitch in, so the project can be completed sooner.
“We originally set a goal of $5,000,” Lahring said. “We’ve already raised $1,000 of that, so we have to keep going. We don’t have any current fundraisers set up at the moment, but we have online giving through our website.”
To help with the continued renovations volunteers are being asked to come forward, particularly electricians and plumbers.
“I’m very hopeful that we can help individuals, couples and families that are presently homeless and trying to transition back into regular life,” White said. “That includes having a job, living in a home and building a future. I can’t wait to get it up and running and see what happens from there.”
Lahring said people in need will be screened based on need. Those who are selected will have to be in transition to permanent housing and not planning to stay at the parsonage for very long, which will allow the churches to help more people in similar situations.
“It was last summer when it came to the point that we figured out this is what we needed to do,” she said. “The parsonage at our church has been empty since I took over. We’ve just been praying and trying to figure out what we wanted to do with it.”
Lahring became the associate pastor in 2009. She became the lead pastor in 2013 when the Rev. George Richards left the church.
“It’s been a slow process,” Debbie White, wife of Fellowship pastor Don White, said. “You have to get through the red tape, but Pastor Lisa has been right on top of everything in getting the permits and okays. We’ve just been helping and doing what we can.”
Lahring and the Whites were inspired by John and Dena Woolpert, who fell on hard times in 2016 after losing their home and vehicle.
“Because of medical problems I had to leave my job,” John Woolpert said. “We were living in my truck after we gave the apartment up in Howell. Eventually we moved up here because I had a relative in the Bancroft area.”
Eventually, he and his wife were no longer able to remain with the relative and became homeless again before a meeting with Lahring changed everything.
“Then we decided to go to church one day in Durand,” he said. “We met Pastor Lisa and she was really instrumental in keeping us together, keeping our faith and made sure we were safe with a roof over our heads.”
With Lahring’s help, Woolpert was able to get back on his feet — which eventually led to being asked to help oversee the House of Hope project.
He was a material handler in Howell when he began having health issues. Before that, he was in hospital work as an emergency medical responder for 22 years.
“Ever since then we’ve been going back to the Crossing,” he said. “We’ve just been working and doing outreach to the homeless and people that we met before and are trying to do our part. That’s important to us.”
For more information on the project or to make a donation, visit durandfreemethodist.org.