Meeting housing needs has proven to be a strong ministry for Kentucky churches in the Oldham-Trimble Baptist Association, and in the near future even more transitional housing will be made available.
Rick Lucas, interim associational missions strategist, said a six-unit apartment complex was purchased in May 2021. Lucas and about a half dozen volunteers are working toward a goal of having the units ready for occupancy this spring.
The housing ministry began in 1998 when the association, based in Crestwood, formed a nonprofit agency doing business as Good News Homes.
“We had a strategic planning process and wanted to address community needs,” Lucas said.
“One of the issues related to housing, which led to the creation of Good News Homes,” he noted. “We have a board of directors that sets policy and procedures for the ministry. When it began, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but eventually the Lord blessed it, and we were able to build a quadriplex of three-bedroom units, four to a building, that could be used as transitional housing. Since then, we have had the capacity for 15 family units until this latest purchase.”
Helping ‘our neighbors’
The intention is to provide housing for a year so residents can “get back on their feet,” Lucas said.
“We have seen all kinds of folks come through who have fallen on hard times because of job loss or high medical expenses or have lost their home,” he said. “Lately we’ve seen a lot of young families who have been living out of cars as well as people who have been sofa surfing, staying with family or friends until they wear out their welcome and become homeless.
“Our staff works with them, helps them develop budget skills or get a GED. We have had several ladies who lost their medical certification, but we help them to get that rectified and get back on their feet. Some have been able to do very well — some have gone on to own their own homes. These folks are our neighbors. We want to help them get back on their feet, stay in the community and maintain their connections. And a number of them have come to the Lord in the process.”
Mentoring, connecting to local church
Churches in the association are involved in mentoring as well as providing transportation to and from doctor appointments, as well as connecting them to a Bible study with a local church.
Stephanie Skeens is the only full-time employee, serving the past 11 years as director of the housing program.
“She is multi-talented and a deeply committed Christian who works with residents,” Lucas said, noting the ministry “helps us connect the community to churches, and it is a much-needed ministry that none of us could do alone. It is a huge witness and a blessing to everyone who has been involved.”
Skeens noted the majority of people served are single working mothers.
“Yesterday one of our single mothers who has been in the program a year completed the program and got the keys to her new permanent housing unit and will move next week. She came into the program during COVID 2021 and had to be off work a lot because of her day care shutting down. She managed to save money, pay off her debt and has nest egg savings.”
The woman had attended Ballardsville Baptist Church, Crestwood, sporadically in the past, but was baptized a few months ago.
Skeens said the ministry wants to carry out the command in Mark 12:31 to love your neighbor as yourself.
“This is who comes to us, our neighbors,” Skeens said. “We never know who is going to be in need and be in a housing crisis. We have taken that verse as our theme.”
In addition to the units the association owns, it is a conduit for HUD funds in a “Rapid Rehousing” project. When funds are received, the association connects homeless people with landlords in the area and directs the rent money to the landlords.
“It’s a different program that is designed to get people off the street very quickly,” Lucas said. “We are still involved, but not as much as with folks on our properties. This even spills over into Henry County with landlords who work with us. It broadens our service area and enables us to help more people.”
Together Good News Homes and Rapid Rehousing help about 50 families obtain housing annually.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Chip Hutcheson, and was originally published by Kentucky Today, which is the news service of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.