Design for Living 2017 - 2018
As the weather began to turn colder in the fall of 2017, the membership of the First Congregational Church, UCC in Elkhart, Indiana became concerned with the safety of the several homeless people who had taken refuge in the doorways of the church building. We received a letter from the City of Elkhart outlining code violations inherent in having the homeless sleeping outside, and saw this as an opportunity to do more than provide external space for sleeping. We entered into formal negotiations with the city to transform upstairs classroom space into a “weather amnesty shelter” that could accommodate at least 16 people. Upon approval, we started moving individuals inside operating on “Housing First Principles.”
First Congregational Church has served 41 people during the winter months of 2017 - 2018. Of these 41 served, 32 are now gainfully employed; 9 individuals have left our program for various reasons.
We currently have 11 people living in our facility. Of these, there are three who are either on disability or unable to work. We have been working with community support systems to assist these individuals in transitioning to more suitable, permanent housing. All others living here are working and will be transitioning out at the end of this phase of the Design for Living program. They are in the process of finding suitable housing.
We will be having a farewell dinner on Monday, March 26 supported, in part by Martin’s Supermarkets. We plan to serve fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, rolls and a beverage.
The Design for Living program will continue through the summer months in order to develop plans for next winter and beyond. In addition to First Congregational Church, this program has been supported by delegations from Central Christian Church, Grace Lutheran Church, Oaklawn PATH Program, St. David Episcopal Church, St. John Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, and several individual participants.
The next Design for Living event is a Poverty Workshop to be held at the First Congregational Church, UCC at 431 South Third Street in Elkhart, Indiana on April 21, from 10am to 2pm. Contact Pastor Izzy Harbin for more details at (574) 903-7099.