When Love In the Name of Christ opened its doors in November 1987, meeting the needs of the poor primarily meant getting them a meal. Now, as Love INC celebrates its 20th anniversary, Executive Director Ingrid Edgerly says the basic need for most of her clients is a roof over their heads and enough of a leg up to get them back on their feet.
With this in mind, Edgerly and her staff at Love INC planned to build a transitional living and education facility dubbed the Family Hope Center on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. This facility would not only give motivated families and individuals the tools to get on with their lives, but would address a shortage of family transitional housing on the Kenai Peninsula.
"Housing is a big issue," Edgerly said, adding that Love INC receives approximately 1,000 phone calls a year. "Twenty-five percent is a reasonable estimate of those phone calls (being) related to housing."
Even though plans for the Family Hope Center have been altered somewhat due to a conflict between Soldotna's leasing policy and the requirements Love INC must meet in order to obtain a grant, Edgerly said the facility will still take shape, she's just not sure where it's going to be and what it will look like.
"It's going to happen," she said. "We just don't know when it's going to happen."
With a $50,000 pre-development grant from Mental Health Trust, Edgerly and Mike Dimmick, the organization's Clearinghouse Coordinator, are busy researching their options. Edgerly said an option might be to reduce the initial plan of 36 units to less than 30. Dimmick added that in addition to looking for land, the agency could also refurbish an existing building.
"We're looking at potential buildings in Kenai, Soldotna and the borough," Edgerly said, adding that the facility can't impact residential areas and must have good access to the community. "That was what was so great (about the Soldotna site). It was well-located and not in a residential area. We love to think someone will donate (the building), but we're open to buying it or getting an extended lease. We've got to have a 50-year lease."
Even though this facility will be the first of its kind on the Kenai Peninsula and will be able to fill an urgent need for single individuals, families, veterans and the handicapped, there are some stipulations as to who can reside there and for how long.
Edgerly said the facility won't take teenagers alone or walk-ups, and that anyone who walks through its doors must go through case management to ensure they are motivated about changing their lives. Residents can live there for a maximum of two years and will be given the educational tools to get a job and independent housing.
Until Family Hope Center becomes a tangible reality, Dimmick and his staff of volunteers are doing what they can to help their clients resolve their housing issues. Dimmick said that might involve putting families up in a hotel room until other arrangements can be made, but Love INC can't guarantee it.
"In general, if a person is in a financial bind, we do everything else we can to free up money for rent," he said.
Even though much of Love INC's services include helping individuals figure out how to pay their rent or feed their families, Edgerly said Love INC doesn't have a pot of money to use in those situations. Instead, Love INC's volunteers advocate for the needy, determine that their client's need is legitimate and manageable and oftentimes act as a negotiator between the individual and landlords, utility companies or even churches and other organizations that can provide long-term help.
If for some reason Love INC's actions aren't enough to get their client out of a bind, they will still do what they can to help.
"It's an understanding going in that we'll do what we can do," Dimmick said. "There are other things we can do and we can always try."
One thing Love INC is always on the lookout for are volunteers. Edgerly said Love INC volunteers have to be Christian, even though their clients don't, and have to be recommended through a church. She suggested that people who are interested should talk to their pastor and have him or her contact Love INC.
"We're always looking at expanding our hours," Edgerly said, adding that currently Love INC is open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. "(We'd like to) expand that to the afternoon, but we desperately need volunteers."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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