Bums. Panhandlers sleeping on park benches and scrounging through the trash to get a meal. That’s the picture that comes to mind when most people think of the homeless.
But the actual definition of “homelessness” describes someone who is transient, as they do not have a permanent residence. It’s an unfortunate problem and one that does not discriminate in regards to location.
“If you were to ask someone, they’d say we don’t have homelessness in Winterset,” said Pastor Jim Howland of the First United Presbyterian Church. “But it’s here. It’s just hidden.”
Aware of this problem, even in small towns, Howland and members of the community set out to create Madison County’s only transitional housing unit, “Hope Home.” Located on a quiet, tree-shaded cul de sac within the city limits, the house has undergone a remodel, including a fresh paint job, new closet doors and a deep cleaning. But the home will serve as more than just a roof over a struggling family’s head. It is designed to help the residents get back on their feet and lead an independent life. Volunteers will teach them a whole spectrum of skills, from resume building and budgeting to cooking and lawn care.
“Whatever had led to a situation where they are not self-sustaining is what we will address,” explained Howland.
The housing program is tailored to each family and their specific situation. For some, this may include addictions. To help in these tougher situations, the residents at Hope Home will be working with professionals in the area to combat their ailments. As long as the occupants follow the determined behavioral plan and continue to progress, they can live in the house for up to one year. The short-term goal is to have a family living in the home before the start of the school year, and long term goals are also being set into place.
“Our hope will be that some other congregations in the community may want to follow a similar path and some interest has already been shown,” said Howland.