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.