Carol’s Story of Despair Turned to Hope

One of the things that people want to hear about is the stories about our residents. I have always sought to protect the privacy of our folks for their security and dignity but I’ve decided to tell their stories and just change the names and places to maintain anonymity.
This will be the first in a series to let you know how your support is being used to change lives. So, hang on. I have over 1500 tales to tell.
For our first story, I’m going to tell you about Carol and her family. Carol is 27 years old and has 2 children, a 14 year old son and a 7 year old daughter. While she has made a series of bad decisions, including becoming involved in drugs, Carol made a conscious decision to turn her life around. She knew that in order for her to succeed she would have to leave the small central Texas town she has always known as home all her life. She knew she needed to leave her old life behind and find a new place to start over. With only $200 dollars in their pocket she and her husband packed up their children and everything they could fit into their old minivan and left town with no particular destination in mind. She only knew that she had to escape her current lifestyle. They traveled about 150 miles and checked into a cheap motel. Knowing their money wouldn’t last long at the motel they decided to “go camping” and moved to a nearby park, unaware that camping was not allowed there. In the middle of the night a police officer approached them and asked for ID. Carol’s husband was on probation for a misdemeanor back home and leaving his county was a violation of that probation and so he had a warrant out for his arrest, which the police officer did immediately. Now Carol was stranded with two children and absolutely no plans or options. She spent the remainder of the night crying in a rest area along the highway. She had no family, no friends and no place to go. She stopped at a gas station, told the clerk about her situation, and found out about Johnson County Christian Lodge. She got directions and drove to our facility where our manager welcomed her. She and her children were admitted to our Family Campus and given a room, bed linens and towels and something to eat. She was very frightened but greatly relieved that she and her children didn’t have to worry about where they were going to sleep or eat.
Her children were immediately enrolled in the Cleburne School District and she began to look for a job. During her intake interview and goal-setting session, it was determined that she had dropped out of high school and needed to complete her GED. She enrolled in GED classes at Cleburne Adult Education where she is excelling. She has begun the enrollment process and financial aid applications for Hill College where she plans on attending once she passes her GED tests. Her aspirations to be drug-free have been fulfilled so far as she has attended “Celebrate Recovery” at a local church.
Her whole attitude has changed and she once again has hope. She is doing quite well. Last night I asked her how she was doing and she emphatically stated, “I’m SUPPOSED to be here.”

How to REALLY Help a Homeless Person!

Sometimes recognizing a homeless person is difficult. Many want to remain unrecognized. But there are those who are obviously homeless and, if you are truly caring, your heart goes out to them. You see them bundled against the cold and the rain or walking down the street in 104 degree weather and you want to do something for them. Perhaps they are temporarily taking refuge in the back corner of a fast-food restaurant but they obviously can’t afford to buy any food there. They look empty and lonely and apparently have no one in the world to turn to or confide in. Your first thought is “I can put them in a motel for a few nights.” Five nights in a cheap motel will cost you about $250. And what do they get for that? Five nights in a motel. That’s all.
But if you take them to a shelter such as ours and make a donation of $250 to the shelter they can get 25 nights in a comfortable bed, 3 meals a day, assistance obtaining an ID card, birth certificate and social security card. They take part in daily devotions and life-skills classes to help them improve themselves and prepare for independence. They get companionship with people who understand their situation and encouragement to begin working on becoming the person God intended them to be. They get referrals to a wide variety of agencies and ministries that they may not know about. They can get assistance obtaining food stamps and, if necessary, psychological counseling. They get help obtaining clothing and searching for employment. We can even get them financial aid and assistance enrolling in college classes at the local community college.
But most of all they also hear God’s message of salvation that they so desperately need.
So what do you think is the best deal for them? 5 nights in a cheap motel or a month of assistance in changing their life?
We’ve been getting people on their feet for 7 years now and have seen some amazing transformations. We have put a person in a bed for a night over 70,000 times. We have served over 160,000 meals. We have seen hundreds come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. That’s all.
Join us in helping change people’s lives. Click here to “REALLY” help a homeless person

Anniversary Time!

Spring is here and with April’s arrival is the 7th anniversary of Johnson County Christian Lodge. When the Lodge (now known as the south campus) first opened in 2010 there was no way of knowing how many lives would be touched by this new ministry. For 13 months, during construction, everybody I spoke with told me that there was no need for it since there are no homeless people in Johnson County. That proved to be incorrect since we were full within a week and have remained so as people came and went. Many were able to find permanent housing and jobs and those are our success stories. 1742 individuals have been served in those 7 years with a total of over 71,000 bed/nights. 25% of our residents have been under the age of 16. We have served single men, single women and families. 5 babies have been born to women while they were residents at the Lodge. Fortunately they all made it to the hospital so none were actually born in the Lodge.

Thanks to the dedication of our homeless liaisons from the Cleburne Independent School District our school-aged residents were all immediately enrolled in school within 48 hours of their arrival. Many times the street in front of the Lodge looks like a school bus parade as children are picked up and dropped off daily. They are given time and encouragement for doing their homework and most of them get the best grades they have ever gotten in their lives while living with us.
Unfortunately some have come to us near the end of their lives due to both chronic and acute diseases. 2 men were given a place to live here while they finished out their lives with some degree of dignity. Having no family or place to live we became their final home.

We have taken in referrals from numerous churches, the police departments in Johnson County, Child Protective Services, Pecan Valley Centers for Mental health and Mental Retardation, Johnson County Jail, and private individuals. There are countless others as well who have brought us victims of poverty and homelessness.
We have assisted young adults who have spent their lives in foster homes but have reached 18 years of age and have “aged out” of CPS care. We have had to become their families while they learn the life skills they never acquired in a long string of foster homes. One young lady told us that she had been in 64 placements from age 2 when she was removed from her abusive home until age 18. Most have never learned to cook, do laundry, take care of money or get a job. Things that most people take for granted.

Throughout this month I will be posting some of our success stories as well as stories of some who didn’t do as well. All who have come to us were given equal opportunities for success. Some just made some very bad choices.

Helping the homeless to recover is never easy. I have always said that this has been the most difficult ministry I have ever had and yet has been the most rewarding.

Please pray daily for the staff and residents at our Lodge. God’s help is the only hope here.

Education Opportunities Begin

Well, we’re into 2017 and lots of our residents are signing up for our long-term program and getting enrolled in Hill College.  Others are enrolling in GED preparation courses at Cleburne Adult Education.

Who signs up for these educational opportunities?  Let’s take a look at some of them. (Names were changed for privacy)

  • Ryan came to us for help getting his life back together. He is 21 years old and, by his own admission, has ruined his life with bad choices.  He already has been convicted of a felony and now realizes what that is going to mean for the rest of his life.  He has a goal of becoming a certified welder and is grateful for the chance to enroll.  He thought he would never have that chance.
  • Fred is an older gentleman who is a bricklayer in his 50s who has kicked his addiction. He knows that at his age he won’t be able to continue his bricklaying career much longer.  He was thrilled to be able to get additional training in a less physically demanding vocation.
  • Stephany is a 20 year old mother of 2 who wants to be able to support herself and her children and live in appropriate housing. Due to her parents’ drug and alcohol addictions she has chosen to move away from that environment and raise her children on her own.  She has enrolled in GED preparation because she didn’t finish high school.  She is so happy to have this opportunity because she had doubts she could ever go back to school and raise her family.  She now has that chance.

This past Monday night representatives from the EOC (Educational Opportunities Center) came to our north campus and signed up 11 residents for Hill College degree and certification programs.  They are also helping them obtain the needed financial aid.

All of this adds up to more people being elevated out of poverty and homelessness permanently.

Continue to pray for our residents.

An Opportunity for Advanced Recovery from Homelessness

In my last post I listed the biggest challenges for homeless people.  In case you missed them, here they are.

The Problems

  • Affordable housing is very hard to come by
  • Lack of saleable skills prevents obtaining real gainful employment
  • The costs of transportation (car, insurance, fuel, etc.) are crippling
  • Much needed medical and dental treatments are out of reach for the majority
  • Money management skills are non-existent

After thinking and praying over how to help conquer these problems I came to the conclusion that we were working on the solutions from the wrong direction. 

Instead of coming up with more low cost housing that would probably be substandard at best or helping locate low-end (dead-end) jobs that pay minimum wage I decided we needed to help the homeless become capable of affording the housing that already exists by helping get trained and educated to the point that they could afford the housing that already exists.

We have created a 3-stage, long-term residency program that would give them the time to attend and graduate from either a degree program from Hill College or a vocational certification program to prepare for a decent paying job.  Details of the program are listed below:

Stage 1:  Days 1-7  INITIAL ENTRY PROGRAM

Entry Requirements:

  1. A completed application on file with JCCL
  2. Personal intake interview with the Lodge Manager
  3. An approved background check

During days 1 to 7 the resident must follow all basic lodge rules, attend all classes, mandatory events and Bible studies scheduled.
Resident is assigned a daily chore for completion.
Resident must meet with the Executive Director to determine eligibility to enter stages 2 and 3.
Resident must leave the shelter during the day per generic calendar.

Primary goal – They are to obtain or update all identification to a current status. Failure to do this means exit at that time.

Stage 2: Days 8-60  BASIC ENTRY PROGRAM If approved for entry by the director the resident officially advances into the Basic Entry program.

Entry Requirements:

  1. A completed application on file with JCCL
  2. Personal interview and goal setting session with the Executive Director
  3. Signed letter of understanding and commitment
  • During days 8 to 60 the resident must follow all basic lodge rules, attend all classes, mandatory events and Bible studies scheduled.
  • Resident is assigned a daily chore for completion.
  • If resident does not have at least a GED certificate they must immediately begin GED provided classes provided by the Lodge or Cleburne Adult Education.
  • Resident must obtain additional identification, as needed. (Examples include a current driver’s license, birth certificate, High School Diplomas, GED certificate, veteran confirmation.)
  • Resident must meet weekly with a caseworker to determine and monitor progress towards primary goals 1 & 2 below.
  • Primary goal 1-They are to submit applications for an advanced training certification or degree program and resolve financial aid and get accepted.
  • Primary goal 2-They are to locate and begin part-time employment.

Stage 3: Days 61-?  OPTIONAL LONG-TERM HOUSING PROGRAM At 60 days the resident may choose to leave the lodge and continue independently or remain in the long-term program to continue and complete their education. If they choose to stay the following conditions apply:

During this time the resident must begin and continue in an advanced education program.

  • Resident must follow all advanced lodge rules. [provided at time of acceptance for long-term residency]
  •  Resident must maintain a 2.5 Academic average
  •  Resident must take a minimum of 10 semester hours.
  •  Resident must work a maximum of 20 hours of part-time employment.
  •  Resident must pay their rent at the beginning of each time period. [see following details]

    Stages 1 and 2 are no cost to the resident. In stage 3 the resident pays a monthly rent of $100 a month. For a family of two adults it would be $200 a month. There is a maximum rate of $200 per family for 3 to 4 persons total. There is also a one-time $75 application fee. This money is nonrefundable.
    The above cost includes housing, utilities, and breakfast. An optional meal plan is available at $25 per adult per week and $15 per child per week. The money is due at the beginning of the month and is nonrefundable whether or not they eat. Meal plan money may be paid by cash or by providing an equal value in grocery items. It must be items from the posted food needs list and must be equal to the cash value owed. Any food donated without a receipt will not be credited to their account.

This is our plan for helping the homeless move from poverty to self-sufficiency.  Look this over and comment on it.  I’m sure we can improve it as time goes by.

The Widow’s Mite

The other day as I was standing in the lobby of our shelter watching the residents come back from church I saw something that really touched my heart.  A young mother, with three small children, was carrying an empty shoebox to fill for the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child gift drive.  Here she is, homeless with three small children and a minimum wage job, preparing to give to someone else.  That’s the kind of generosity God is looking for.  She was willing to give out of her scarcity to someone with even less.  And she was overjoyed to give.  That’s what giving is really all about.  In Luke chapter 21, the first 4 verses is the story of the “Widow’s Mite.”  As Jesus observed the poor widow putting 2 small copper coins in the offering he said that she had given more than all the wealthy people who had given much more.

Very early in my ministry I pastored a church that used “pledge cards” completed by the members in order to plan for the following year’s budget.  (a practice I would no longer recommend today but none-the-less, one we used back then.) The deacons were assigned to go into the homes of the members and collect the cards from each family.  I went out with a very old and wise deacon as we went into the home of one of our most wealthy members. As the man of the house filled out their pledge card he quipped, “I guess I can give my widow’s mite,” to which the deacon quickly answered, “Oh, no.  You don’t have to do that.”  The member looked at him very strangely and said, “What do you mean?”  The old deacon replied, “She gave all she had and the church doesn’t expect that much from you.”

How much are you overjoyed to give?  The Bible tells us that God loves a joyful giver.  Giving to God’s church and ministries is a privilege and not a duty.  We should remember that when we are financially supporting our local churches and community ministries.

Digging Deeper, Shoveling Faster!

The Challenge

Poverty and homelessness are dehumanizing and debilitating when faced alone.  The vast majority of the time the victims are unable to escape without help from someone.  It’s like they have fallen into a pit whose walls have been greased.  Unless someone offers a hand in the escape it is highly unlikely the victim will recover at all.  While in homelessness there are only two things that consume all of the homeless person’s mind and energy.  One, “where will I sleep tonight?” and two, “how will I eat today?”  Up until this year Johnson County Christian Lodge has concentrated on solving these two problems for victims of homelessness but through experience with thousands of homeless persons we have discovered that there are still multitudes of problems which are equally as difficult to solve:

The Problems

  • Affordable housing is very hard to come by
  • Lack of saleable skills prevents obtaining real gainful employment
  • The costs of transportation (car, insurance, fuel, etc.) are crippling
  • Much needed medical and dental treatments are out of reach for the majority
  • Money management skills are non-existent

I could go on and on but I’m trying to limit my blogs to 500 words.

The Solutions?

Just housing the homeless is a nice step but so much more needs to be done.  We are now in the throes of examining what more can be done for the homeless and just how those things can be accomplished here in Johnson County.  There are many resources available here in Cleburne but few are large enough to accomplish what needs to be done and there is little in the way of coordination of these services.

Our Commitment

We are about to embark on a journey to expand and coordinate services these people need.  We will need to begin raising funds for this effort.  We will also need volunteers who have the skills we need to launch these efforts.

What needs do you see for the homeless and how do you see yourself involved in the process?  We’d love to hear from you.

What Makes an Organization “Christian?”

Here at Johnson County Christian Lodge we work very hard at showing God’s love in very tangible ways to thousands of individuals, however we sometimes have encountered people who accuse us of being non-Christian.  These accusations usually come to us from those we have been serving with free food, free lodging, free counseling, free medications and free assistance in obtaining documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and social security cards but who feel there should be no rules about how to behave in our facilities. It also comes from those who don’t feel that they should have to do daily chores to keep our shelters clean and sanitary.  In other words, to be “Christian” you have to be like Santa Claus.  “Give me what I want, when I want it with no responsibilities attached.”  That is not “Christian.”  It is “welfare.”  Goods and services obtained without sacrifice on the recipient’s part have no value to them.  A large part of what we do here at JCCL is help teach residents to be responsible for their own actions.  That’s part of being a “Homelessness Recovery Center” and not just a shelter.  Teaching new life skills and attitudes are the only way to bring about lasting changes in a client’s life.  If our residents aren’t actively involved in their own recovery we really can’t help them.  If we put more effort into their recovery than they do recovery will not take place.  We do everything we know how to assist and direct those who are actively involved in their own recovery.  Those are the ones who follow the house rules and do their chores.  Those are the ones who turn out to be successful in finding and keeping permanent housing.  Using scripture as our guide we refer to 2 Thessalonians 3:10 where Paul states:  “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  We welcome all who are willing to expend the effort to improve themselves.

Ending Homelessness – the missing link

 

When I began this ministry almost 7 years ago I didn’t know quite how I would accomplish what I had set out to do.  There was no book entitled “How to Run a Homeless Shelter.”  I knew there were people who didn’t have an appropriate place to stay because, as a Pastor, I was continually being approached by those needing lodging for the night.  My small church didn’t have any funds for this type of thing and so I would have to turn them down.  The government had initiatives to “End Homelessness.” They throw money at the problem and start bureaucracies.  But the answer still eludes them.  It reminded me of the time during a children’s sermon when the children were asked “What is grey and furry with a large bushy tail, that climbs trees and eats and stores nuts?” There was a long pause and a boy in the back raised his hand and said, “It sounds like a squirrel but I know the answer is Jesus.”  Lots of adult laughter ensued but his answer was actually correct.  In all of the government programs the one missing element is Jesus.  And it is forbidden in most cases.  A personal relationship with our Lord is central to solving the problem of homelessness and almost everything else for that matter.  Yes, the government is always searching for the answer but it’s like the man who found a young lady on her hands and knees under a street light obviously searching for some unseen object.  As he approached he said, “can I help you?” to which she replied, “I lost my contact lens.”  So he said, “let me help you” and got down on his hands and knees and began searching as well.  After searching for a while he asked, “Where did you lose it?” to which she replied, “about 15 feet over there.”  He asked, “why are you looking over here?” She replied, “Because the light’s better over here.”  The lesson here is that if you’re looking in the wrong place, the answer won’t be found even if the search is easier.

We have had a great deal of success in helping over 1300 homeless people but we always start the process by presenting Jesus, the answer to most problems.

We’re Here for the Churches!

Having pastored small churches for a large part of my preaching career I know how frustrating it can be when a needy family comes in the church needing a place to stay.  Small churches have a very limited budget when it comes to ministering to the downtrodden in a tangible way.  It can cost $100 a night to put up a family in a cheap hotel.  And that doesn’t feed them.  Yet I wanted to be the hands and feet of Christ in my ministry. In Matthew 25 Jesus talks about how the King will separate the sheep from the goats by how they ministered or did not minister to the hurting.  The sheep (the righteous) received their reward while the goats (the unrighteous) received eternal punishment.  But how can the church go about helping with their limited financial resources?  In 2008 Johnson County Christian Lodge in Cleburne, Texas was established in order to be the ministry facility that every church needed but no one church could afford.  The concept was that all of the churches would contribute to support this ministry and thereby be able minister as God expects.  The churches can refer the homeless to us to feed and house, and we can do it for about $8.00 per person per night.  In the 6+ years we have been open we have served over 1700 individuals with a total of 65,000 bed/nights and 165,000 meals.  Is your church among those who support us? If not, please pray about having your church put us in your budget this next year.  If you’d like for someone to come and make a presentation about this ministry go the contact section of this website.  We’d love to tell you more.

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