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‘Small people helping small people’

An interfaith effort to build a transitional house seeks to help others stand on their own

Pastor Tim Maxa of Lenox Presbyterian Church paints a bedroom within a transitional house, 104 S. Main St. in Lenox. The transitional house is a joint effort between southwest Iowa Presbyterian churches, Appalachian Service Project and students of East Union Schools, and will serve individuals in need of temporary housing.
Pastor Tim Maxa of Lenox Presbyterian Church paints a bedroom within a transitional house, 104 S. Main St. in Lenox. The transitional house is a joint effort between southwest Iowa Presbyterian churches, Appalachian Service Project and students of East Union Schools, and will serve individuals in need of temporary housing.

A transitional housing facility is rapidly under renovation by the United Charitable Association (UCA) – an interfaith organization, created by a partnership of local Presbyterian Churches, which exists to help individuals in need.

The transitional house, located at 104 S. Main St. in Lenox, is anticipated to open in July.

“We’re this close to getting open,” said Delores Doench, pastor of Platte Center Presbyterian Church and President of the UCA.

Volunteers from the UCA, Presbyterian congregations of southwest Iowa, students from East Union Community Schools and members of the Appalachian Service Project, have been busy with the installation of drywall and painting last week. Yesterday, Doench wrote a letter to the editor seeking donations from the community for the facility. The UCA is still in need of a stove and refrigerator for a kitchen. Currently, they are awaiting the arrival of a counter top, cabinets and sink, which will be installed this month.

Despite many of the volunteers’ affiliation with local Presbyterian churches, Doench stressed that this facility is not a church – it’s simply a case of “small people helping other small people” and encourages any church in the community to invite its residents to its services.

‘A hand up’

The transitional house will feature four units and currently serves as a women’s home.

Doench said the house is not an emergency shelter. It is for individuals in transition, who need temporary accommodations as they save for a down payment to live on their own.

“It is not a safe house,” said Doench. “We are not doing any counseling. That’s the big difference between a domestic violence shelter and what we are doing.”

The transitional house will serve individuals for up to three months, but the board may offer an extension if it sees significant efforts being made by an individual to gain and maintain employment.

“We are looking to give people a hand up, not a hand out,” said Doench.

Doench said the organization is in talks with Michaels Foods to assist its residents with long term employment opportunities.

“They’re excited because their problem is they hire somebody and they work for two days and don’t show up again,” said Doench.

The UCA is also working with MATURA and its partners at IowaWORKS in Creston.

Doench said individuals who would be good applicants for the transitional house are either women who are homeless or those exiting a drug rehabilitation program.

“Crossroads is looking for a place where they can put someone who is right out of drug rehab and currently, the only place they have to put them is with the same people that helped get them into trouble,” she said.

Accommodations

A couple of rooms are large enough to accommodate a mother and one or two small children. Residents will be provided food and shelter and a staff member will be on site 24/7. However, that person will not have the same training as domestic violence shelter staff.

Doench praised the community of Lenox for recognizing the need for this type of housing and said the organization hopes to open transitional houses to serve other communities, as well.

We looked at many places here in Creston, and we were told, Creston didn’t want a place like that, ‘we don’t have people that need that,’” said Doench. “I don’t know what rock they’ve been living under, but Lenox was very open to it.”

To get into the shelter, applicants will need to pass a sheriff’s background check to assure residents do not have active warrants. Additionally, drugs or alcohol are prohibited at the transitional house, and smoking will take place in a designated area.

For more information, contact Doench at 641-202-0314.

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