Take a moment to tour the future home of our Christian Based Program Living Facility for Men in our city!
Below is an article written by Laurel Wilson of the Bowling Green Daily News:
Hope House Ministries helps inmates in Warren County Regional Jail prepare for life once they’re released, but some still struggle to re-enter the outside world without returning to the path that landed them in jail in the first place.
“We just heard this common theme from the men that they were afraid to get released, because unless they found a stable place, they were going to go back into the same environment,” said Bryan Lewis, executive director of Hope House, a nonprofit that aims to alleviate spiritual and physical poverty through “gospel restoration.”
During the last two years, dozens of inmates have gone through Jobs for Life, an eight-week class that uses biblical references to teach key work principles to help people overcome obstacles to getting a job. However, the class hasn’t always led inmates to stability upon their release, especially for addicts, Lewis said.
“Usually, if they have a job, that’s a ticket to use,” he said. “Sometimes, a job for someone with substance abuse can be the worst thing for them.”
Unless addicts in jail have a structured environment that keeps them accountable upon release, they are less likely to overcome their addiction, making them more prone to reoffend, he said.
According to Warren County Jailer Jackie Strode, nearly 75 percent of inmates are reoffenders. The parole office reported to Hope House that 40 percent of parolees reoffend.
Hope House wants to change those statistics, but Lewis realizes it will take more than helping former inmates find jobs. He believes they need a stable environment where they can live for a year and receive help to grow spiritually, mentally, physically and academically.
To create such an environment, Hope House plans to open a program living facility within six months, which seems like a natural next step in the organization’s ministry, Lewis said.
“What we came to see was there was no Christian-based program living environment for men to go to to get the Christian-based recovery we believe in,” he said.
In his experience, women are better able to find stability and support through existing resources, so for now Hope House is focusing on men for its program living facility, but the door is open to serve women in the future.
For the first year of the program, up to seven men will live with an on-site manager and go through curriculum and counseling to help them become viable citizens, employees, husbands and fathers through the power of the gospel.
“Our premise here is not to try and fix anybody,” Lewis said. “Our premise is to help men encounter the love of the heavenly father in a structured environment and gain an understanding about how Jesus can make everything new.
“At the end of the day, we’re all bent toward being addicted to something, whether it’s our job, our social life or a bottle,” he said. “Jesus is the one who can help us overcome anything we believe can satisfy us. Ultimately, substance abuse is just a problem of our heart and Jesus is the only one who can satisfy our emptiness.”
Hope House isn’t looking to just give participants a certificate, Lewis said. “We want to see them paying their child support, being a good worker and a leader in their church,” he said.
To give them work experience, men will be trained in woodworking so they can make furniture to sell at Hope House’s community store, which will provide them with a savings account when they finish the program.
“We think it’s a good incentive,” Lewis said. “When they work, they’re working for their future.
“At the end of the day, we’re not doing it for us,” he said. “We want to see God’s kingdom grow. We want to see people coming to Christ. We want to invest in their life. We’re tired of seeing people with substance abuse be characterized as something of little value. We think they have great value.”
Hope House is in the process of hiring staff for the facility and is three to six months away from opening, but getting to this point hasn’t been without bumps in the road, Lewis said.
When Hope House first started pursuing program living, it was as if God was orchestrating it because the organization received a $100,000 donation to help launch the facility, he said.
“It was almost like the Lord just laid this in our lap,” he said.
However, finding a space to build a facility proved difficult.
“Pretty much what we found out is if we did build, we would delay by 18 to 24 months,” Lewis said. “Every option that we pursued, we were running into roadblocks.”
Knowing donors were anxious for Hope House to start program living, the organization’s board of directors voted to lease a downtown house this fall so the program can get underway until plans for a larger, permanent facility come to fruition.
Lewis felt God at work again when he found an ideal house on Adams Street that’s already set up as a halfway house. Owners Greg and LeAnn Powell of Auburn bought the house in the fall and opened it as a halfway house in January, but operating it hasn’t gone according to plan.
“It’s been a little bit more than me and my wife thought it would be,” Greg Powell said. “A lot of the guys that have been here, the addiction is so strong that they come in saying they want to get clean, but most of them can’t make it more than a month.”
When he met Lewis at a Hope House event and heard about the planned program living facility, the two realized their goals were similar and the Powells agreed to let Hope House lease their property.
“It’s almost like we bought it and remodeled it so Bryan could use it,” Greg Powell said. “It’s like God had a plan that we didn’t know about. I think it was more of God’s big plan that this is the way it was supposed to go. It just kind of all seemed to fall into place.”
He believes Hope House can be successful when he and his wife were not because Hope House already has a relationship with many of the men likely to participate, and the organization is planning a much more structured program than the Powells offered.
“Program living is different than a halfway house because with program living, you have staff that give 24/7 care for the student residents,” Lewis said. “Any time you go out of the house, it’s with staff. Program living is more accountable, more structured.”
Strode believes the environment Hope House is developing could help inmates successfully re-enter society.
“I think you would see a difference,” he said. “I think it will be a big factor in helping to keep them from reoffending and helping them get on a positive track in life.”
I came to Bowling Green a year and a half ago from Springfield, Illinois to help my daughter and grandson while she was enrolled at SKYCTC. I wasn’t planning to stay, but I immediately loved the city and decided to make Bowling Green my home. After a few brief jobs through a temp agency, I got a great job at Country Oven Bakery, but unfortunately I was relieved of my duties after 9 months. I thought I would find a job really quick but that wasn’t the case. So here I am thinking, “I finally had a job I liked, got out of my motel 6 months into my job at Country Oven, but now, 3 months later I am jobless in fear of becoming homeless.”
I was scared and felt alone. I began to experience so many emotions from my unemployment. I felt hopeless, angry and felt like giving up. I had never been without a job for this long.
Scraping by and running low on food, my neighbor told me about Hope House. I was going in for a food box, but when I got there I learned about the Jobs for Life program and it just so happened the next class was starting in a few weeks. The staff told me if I didn’t have a job by then to come back by and sign up for the class. I did and it changed my life. I began to encounter relationships with people who cared about me and wanted the best for me. I had never really read the Bible or talked about Bible stories with other people, but Jobs for Life created an environment that allowed me to begin doing both of these things. Jobs for Life taught me how to live, not feel helpless, and helped me learn practical tools for getting a job. My 8 week Jobs for Life journey was so important to me. It gave me purpose and I woke up each day excited, ready and wanting to come to class. I really didn’t have any friends here, but the Jobs for Life volunteers and other students became my family! I didn’t want it to end. It was somewhere I wanted and needed to be.
Right before I graduated I was still looking for work. I learned about Hope House’s community store and how they specifically hired only Jobs for Life graduates. I needed more of this community so to get an opportunity to work at Hope House’s Community Store was a win-win for me. Very soon after my interview I was hired. I started working three weeks ago and love my job. This job is giving me hope and an opportunity to challenge myself. It is a blessing to work and have a job. I am looking forward to beginning the Faith and Finances course next week and learning more about God’s word and how to manage my money.
In closing, right before I graduated Jobs for Life my other daughter was arrested and put in jail. This unfortunate situation put my other grandchild, Brea, in a very difficult place. She is three years old. When this happened, I didn’t know what to do, but run to my Jobs for Life mentor, Dolores Anthony. She already could tell something was wrong before I told her. I knew I had to take care of my granddaughter, but I didn’t know how I was going to support her. The courts gave me temporary custody right before I graduated Jobs for Life. God was watching over me and my granddaughter, because without my relationship with Jobs for Life and my Hope House family I wouldn’t have been in a place physically, financially, or emotionally to take care of my granddaughter. This job at Hope House’s Community Store was given to me by God and is keeping my family together.
Before starting my journey with Hope House back in November of 2014, my life was in disarray with little hope for the future. It was a hard year for my children and me. I remember feeling at my lowest about the time I found Hope House. I came to Hope House seeking help with my electric bill that was about to be disconnected for nonpayment. After meeting with the staff at Hope House and being blessed with funds for my electric bill, I was given the opportunity to be a part of a class called "Jobs for Life". Oh, my, where do I start? I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this class! Jobs for life taught me many valuable lessons and opened my eyes to many facts about life, and taught me what it means to be a successful employee. I can honestly say my life has done a complete 180 in the right direction since joining and graduating from Jobs for Life. I have since come into a greater and deeper relationship with the Lord, been steadily employed, and my children and I are the happiest we have been in a long time. I sincerely thank all those at Hope House who have not only inspired me but have continued to challenge me to be better. Through the strength of God, I will continue to be a blessing to Hope House as I feel forever indebted to them for their kindness. I have also found a great church home since coming to Hope House, which has been a positive driving force in my family's life. I pray my story blesses you richly today. - Keyona
As an organization, Hope House is designed for a special purpose in serving our city. So when the Lord clearly reveals a great and unserved need in our midst, how can we respond with anything other than obedience? We want to share with you an endeavor God has placed on us that we must obediently pursue.
For the last three years, we have recognized a growing pattern of men displaced and in need of a residential Christian based environment to overcome the struggles of substance abuse. Our board and staff have been diligently researching ways we can partner with men who need specialized care to find freedom from their addiction. After much prayer and counsel in 2014, we began to develop a model for a 12 month Christian based Program Living Facility for Men.
To facilitate this next phase of ministry, we are pursuing the purchase of a residence near Hope House. This first phase will allow us to house 5-10 men over a 12 month period. This program will be professionally staffed to provide a Christian centered environment allowing men to encounter the healing and restoring power of Jesus in all areas of their life.
Taking on a challenge of this size would not be possible without the Lord’s provision, and He is already providing. One of our caring supporters has agreed to match up to $100,000 of every gift we receive through the end of April to help fund this new effort, so we need your help! Your gift will help us touch those who are in desperate need of the transforming power of the gospel. You can be a part of this historic matching gift by donating here or by mail: 112 W. 10 Avenue, 42101. Please reference Program Living in the Memo.
Over the next six weeks I will be posting a series of blogs about what has lead us to this point and what will this look like for Hope House and our city.
If you would like to review our Program Living Business Plan or talk further on how you can be involved, please email me at email@example.com. Please search your heart for how the Lord would involve you in this new endeavor with us.
Bryan Lewis | Executive Director