Out of every challenge, God creates opportunity. Today, I am writing to share exciting news about the future of Shalom House. Shalom House was founded by Angie O’Gorman and Bob Calvert in 1973. Operating in the tradition of the Catholic Worker Movement initiated by Dorothy Day and Peter Mauren, the purpose of Shalom House was to provide men experiencing homelessness the opportunity for a safe place to sleep, a hot meal and a shower. In 2008, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas took over the operational leadership of Shalom House. Its purpose, however, has much remained the same. As I reflect on our beloved Saint Joseph, I cannot help but recognize the similarities within our Shalom House residents – these men are fathers, sons, and brothers who, like St. Joseph, desire to be loving and caring members of their families and to take part in dignified work.
This past year serving during a pandemic is a prime example of the relationship between challenge and opportunity. Because of the COVID-19 safety protocols and extreme caution for our current residents, Catholic Charities was unable to reach our full resident capacity of 25 throughout the majority of 2020. While this was heartbreaking in many ways, we realized the lower resident numbers allowed us to pause, reevaluate and begin to ask tough questions about the future of Shalom House. In its current state, Shalom House lacks appropriate staffing to support a 24 hour-seven days a week emergency shelter. Also, the facility itself is insufficient to serve these men in a dignified way and our programming needs to be elevated to meet the ultimate outcome of resident self-sufficiency. We know that we can and must do better.
Through Shalom House, Catholic Charities will continue to respond to the immediate needs of men experiencing homelessness. Our plan, however, is to take that a step further and engage our Shalom House residents into a continuum of care fully addressing physical, mental and spiritual health. Men will have an opportunity to obtain a safe place to sleep, a shower and a hot meal AND Catholic Charities will engage those ready and willing into wrap-around services addressing nutrition, personal hygiene, mental and physical health, financial fluency, education and employment. In addition, this renovation will allow Shalom House to increase its service capacity from 25 men to 50+ men.
Immediate next steps:
In order to fulfill this vision, we must begin a facilities assessment. First, we must make every effort to fulfill each resident’s long-term home plan. Each resident has been made aware of the plans to review the current status of our facilities and the vision of Catholic Charities serving a more robust role in ending homelessness in Kansas City, Kansas. On or before July 1, 2021 our next steps include:
- Communicate the need for the evaluation of Shalom House programming, staffing and facilities to critical stakeholders: current residents, agency staff, volunteers, parish and community partners and the funding community
- Transition current residents into permanent housing
- Complete building assessment of current Shalom House location
- Develop program logic model to be presented to critical stakeholders: agency staff, volunteers, parish and community partners and funding community
- Create expanded staff job descriptions and begin hiring
- Begin engaging private and public funders for this new project
What does this mean for you? How can you help?
Beginning in June, the current residents of Shalom House will be placed into permanent housing. Catholic Charities will continue to offer access to services to the residents transitioning into permanent housing. During our temporary closure of Shalom House, Catholic Charities will continue fight homelessness by continuing to work with a variety of community partners to successfully house new referrals and to provide our continuum of services through other internal program referrals.
Shalom House will temporarily close as we discern renovation/remodel or relocation of Shalom House services. It is my intent to remain in Kansas City Kansas where the need is great and access to emergent and transitional housing is slim. A more formal timeline for the reopening of Shalom House will be created and communicated once the facilities assessments have been completed. Volunteers will be asked to share their time and talents within another ministry until Shalom House reopens.
We ask for your prayers and support as this will be a heavy lift for our Catholic Charities team. If you or someone you know has an interest in supporting this project financially, please respond to this email directly.
More information will be forthcoming via email and during community information sessions that will be scheduled ongoing at a later date.
Thank you sincerely for your continued support of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas!
Serving in Solidarity,