By Bonnie Mentel
New Hope United Methodist Church, formerly known as First United Methodist Church of Brandon, completed a church-wide missional study last year called, “Becoming a Good Samaritan.” The study convicted several staff members, including Minister of Missions and Pastoral Care Coordinator Vicki Harrison, to do even more for their community. Senior Pastor Jamie Westlake approached her to talk about a house on the property that was being used as office space, but that wasn’t being utilized the way it could be. They began brainstorming about how to use the space.
“Immediately, I thought about the Women’s Resource Center, because we have a close working relationship with them and I know Cheryl Hickman (executive director) very well, and I know her dream of starting a shelter for women and children. I also do a lot of homeless outreach, so I know the need is tremendous for some kind of transitional housing in East County,” Harrison said.
She mentioned that there are not many resources in the area for the homeless. The organizations that exist often run at capacity.
The Little White House has plans to open in the next few weeks. It will offer short-term transitional housing for three to four families at a time.
“It’s a homey atmosphere. They’ll have a house mom. Over the course of the time they’re there, they’ll receive extensive case management at the Women’s Resource Center, working to get them into some kind of rapid re-housing program,” Harrison said.
The Women’s Resource Center will be running the program and will manage the intake process.
The families will be responsible for purchasing some of their own food, but small groups from the church will come in and provide dinner. The Women’s Resource Center has a large surplus of clothing and also a hefty food pantry that can be used to provide for the needs of the residents. New Hope recently began a food co-op that charges $5 for a box of food, which includes produce and eggs.
“We’re excited to see what God is going to do through this. It’s always exciting to see how God brings people together and to see life-changing transformations,” Harrison said.
For questions or to refer someone to The Little White House, contact Vicki Harrison at 689-4161 or Cheryl Hickman at the Women’s Resource Center, 661-3696 ext. 242. New Hope United Methodist Church is located at 120 N. Knights Ave. in Brandon.