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Love INC hopes to break cycle

Group looking for new transitional living facility site in Kenai

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2008

They don't have a dormitory; no old hotel or unused apartment building. For now, they don't have a plot of land.

Heck, Love In the Name of Christ a Christian clearinghouse linking people in need with available community resources doesn't even have a church per se.

What the organization does have is a dream: a dream to end homelessness on the Kenai Peninsula for countless single-parent families and intact families living in cars, holing up in abandoned trapper cabins and sharing cramped quarters with friends and relatives.

Love INC also has inspiration and a calling from above to perform God's work in the name of Christ.

Ingrid Edgerly, executive director of Love INC of the Kenai Peninsula, has championed the cause of a transitional living facility she has dubbed the "Family Hope Center," for a couple of years. Most recently she was rebuffed by the city of Soldotna, which did not want to deal with the red tape involved with sponsoring a Community Development Block grant Edgerly sought.

Now, changing her tack somewhat, Edgerly has come before the Kenai City Council with hopes of possibly siting the center in that city.

Championing the cause, Love INC staff member Dan VanZee testified at last week's council meeting, starting out by saying, "Please be aware, this is not a shelter."

A homeless shelter, he said, "is unavoidably tied to an emergency shelter."

That is not how Love INC envisions the Family Hope Center.

VanZee went on to say his mission at this time is to inform and educate the community.

While he inadvertently spoke of 400 to 500 people on the Kenai Peninsula "who have no permanent shelter," he repeatedly told the council Love INC seeks to develop a "transitional living facility."

He also hopes to re-form people's picture of homelessness.

"Most people's face of homelessness is the older man on the street corner holding a sign saying he will work for food," VanZee said.

"The true face is the face of sadness on a little 9-year-old girl," whose family does not have the means to provide a permanent home for themselves.

The Family Hope Center will go beyond simply providing that home.

"What our project involves (is) educating and housing families with children," VanZee said.

In addition to housing, the center would assign case workers to the families to train them and help them break the cycle of homelessness in which many are stuck.

In a letter to Mayor Pat Porter and the council, Edgerly said, "The Lee Shore Center is meeting housing needs of women in crisis, and the Friendship Mission is at the start of meeting housing needs of single men.

"Love INC is now in the process of establishing a transitional living facility ... to meet the needs of intact and single-parent families," she said.

The Family Hope Center would serve as a central location where individuals and families could be assisted with existing social services to change their lives.

"Mentoring, education and case work will surround residents of the Family Hope Center," Edgerly said. "We are now considering properties, and (the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority) will be providing a civil engineer soon to review building options."

When asked by Councilwoman Linda Swarner if Love INC has a specific location in mind, VanZee said, "I am not at liberty to divulge the location. We're looking at a couple at this time."

He said the organization has identified two pieces of property in Kenai that "would be very suitable."

While the city council did not take action supporting Love INC's dream, council members did not burst the organization's bubble either.

The first education lesson may have hit its mark.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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