Many Hands, Many Hearts, and a Place to Call Home
The Cheyenne House Story
Manitou Park Presbyterian Church is a neighborhood church in South Tacoma; small in number and financially challenged, some might say an unlikely church to participate in Congregational-Based Affordable Housing.
The church owns a house on its property that had been occupied for 10 years by a member who provided cleaning services services for the church. When she married and moved out the Session (Board) was faced with the question of what to do with the house. During their discernment process they heard about Congregational Based Affordable Housing and were immediately intrigued. A guiding principle for Manitou Park has been “doing the best we can with what God has given us.” Although they couldn’t solve the housing problem for the 600+ families on the waiting list, perhaps they could solve it for one family. They invited the program coordinator to their meeting to share the philosophy of CBAH – specifically that families do best in housing if they have supportive relationships. The pastor, Ken Sikes, said, “We look at ourselves and that’s what’s made a difference for us. We say that Manitou Park is a community worth sharing. What if we shared it with a family journeying through homelessness?” Could this be God’s timing?
The session took the next step and invited Associated Ministries to give a presentation to the congregation. If 4-5 people would sign up to serve on the Family Support Team, that would be the indication the session needed that the church would move forward. Seven people signed up!
The house needed a lot of work, but help came from multiple hands. A men’s group from a sister congregation ripped out the carpet to reveal hardwood floors. Families signed up to paint and repair specific rooms. Work teams were formed to repair the ceiling, tear down an old chimney and even weed the flower beds. The bathroom was redone. All the rooms were repainted and new curtains were bought, hemmed, and hung. As with any remodeling, unexpected needs arose as was the case with the roof which needed replacing. Though the project exceeded their budget, unexpected donations arrived to cover much of the cost. Though not exactly light work, the many hands certainly made it lighter. Not only this, but the communal work helped the members come to know and love one another better.
The Family Support Team was trained during two 3-hour sessions. They learned how to befriend and support the family that would soon call their house a home. They learned about homelessness, trauma, strength-based leading, and resources in the community. They learned how to walk alongside the family & support them without being condescending or taking charge.
The house was blessed on October 13th. The renovation is complete. But more importantly, this small congregation has been transformed in the process. They came together, put their faith into action, and worked incredibly hard. They turned this old house into a beautiful home for a family journeying through homelessness.
On November 16th, a family of four moved in. Mom, Dad, and their two young children were living in their van after being evicted. Dad lost his job, Mom was pregnant and they couldn’t pay their rent. Now Dad is working again, as is Mom but both at minimum wage jobs that don’t pay enough to cover market-rate rent, utilities, and the expenses of a baby, a four year- old and other living expenses. Congregational-Based Affordable Housing was an answer to prayer. A safe affordable home and a team of friendly people to support them, gives this family hope for their future. They are home for the holidays.