With new director hired, DL homeless shelter nears completion
With a new director in place and construction on the housing pods starting to take shape, The Refuge Christian Outreach Center's project to build a 28-bed shelter for homeless men in the Detroit Lakes area is nearing completion.
"We're not letting any moss grow under our feet," said Lynnette Price, who started her new job as director of the Compassion House on Friday. "We're getting ready to open in late spring."
According to Refuge Center director Randy Kohler, the impetus that enabled the Compassion House project to reach its final construction phase was a $100,000 contribution from a private donor.
"We have a donor who gave us a $100,000 gift that enabled us to complete work on the Compassion House," Kohler said Friday.
In all, the project received "well over $200,000" in grants and donations, said Mel Manning, CEO and president of The Refuge --including not only that $100,000 gift, but another $85,000 from local businesses as well as contributions from area churches and a variety of individual donors.
Price, who officially began her duties as director of the Compassion House on Friday, said she came to that position through her work with another faith-based organization, Family Facets, which was geared toward mothers and children.
"When I was still involved with Family Facets, I was invited to a meeting at the Refuge to share what I was doing with them," Price said. "A little later on, Martha Rutherford (a member of the Refuge board of directors) invited me to come back and share how we could possibly work together on developing a faith-based organization that included not only women and children, but a broader spectrum of needs to be met in the community."
"She started coming to our meetings, and realized that what we were doing here meshed with her goals," said Kohler.
From that point, Price moved on to become a Refuge board member herself -- a seat that she continued to hold until accepting the position of Compassion House director.
Her duties at the Compassion House will involve not only overseeing the construction, but developing admissions criteria and developing connections with existing county and state agencies that work with the homeless.
"I'll also be working to bring together area churches and get them involved," Price said, noting that the Refuge is a "totally non-denominational, faith-based nonprofit" that seeks to work with people of all faiths.
The Compassion House facilities will actually be opened in phases, Price said.
"We don't just want to fill up overnight," she explained. "We will be opening a pod at a time."
Each housing pod will include four bedrooms as well as restroom, shower and laundry facilities.
In all, there are four housing pods on the upper level, Kohler noted, with each pod intended to house between 8 and 10 men. Three of the bedrooms will be singles, intended to house the Compassion House's live-in staff.
The remaining rooms will each include two or three beds.
"We will also have a full kitchen, and a dining and classroom area," Kohler added.
Each resident will be responsible not only for maintenance and cleaning of their own living areas, but they will be expected to share in meal preparation and cleanup duties as well, Price said.
"We will have a cook who will train them to prepare their own food," Kohler said.
"They will be assigned to prepare meals and clean up on certain days," Price added. "Good food is a big part of the Compassion House's mission."
In addition, Kohler said, the plan is to help them to learn life skills that will enable them to become healthy, productive, working members of society -- such as tending to their own organic garden.
"We'll be working to meet all their physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health needs," he added.
"All of the people who have come together to help make this dream come true -- it's been nothing short of a miracle," said Manning. "We are absolutely honored to have Lynette come on board with us. We really feel in our hearts that the Lord has sent her here to be the leader of the Compassion House."
"From all of us at the Refuge, it's been a privilege and an honor to be a part of this project," Kohler added. "We're all about the Father's business here at the Refuge, the Compassion House and the Helping Hands Thrift Store."
"Today is one of the best days of my life," Price said Friday. "I'm excited to use my skills and abilities, and my love for the Lord, in a way that will make a difference in the lives of the unfortunate. Jesus Christ changes lives, and I'm living proof of that."
"We encourage anyone who is interested to come be a part of what's going on here in our hometown of Detroit Lakes," Kohler added.
Manning also noted that plans are in the works for an open house to let the public come see first-hand all the work that's being done at The Refuge and Compassion House.
"Our open house is coming soon," he said.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.