By Maureen Smith
HOLLY SPRINGS – The Diocese of Jackson, Sacred Heart Southern Missions (SHSM) and a newly formed 501c-3 charity have partnered to create a new ministry in Marshall County. Bishop Joseph Kopacz joined Father Jack Krups, SCJ, executive director of Sacred Heart Southern Missions, Father Thi Pham, pastoral leader for the area, and the SHSM board on Friday, Nov. 3, to bless and dedicate the Bishop William Houck New Hope Village.
The village has been in the community for many years. According to Lyle Hennen, one of the original founders, a group of business owners and community leaders came together in 1996 to purchase a motel complex and turn it into a homeless shelter. The collection of small cottages offered separate housing units for homeless men and women as well as a clothes closet and small food pantry. The group let businesses or church groups sponsor one building at a time for renovations.
The Knights of Columbus and Mens’ Club from Olive Branch Queen of Peace Parish would often help with donations. “Two years ago we decided to renovate a couple of the units,” said Jeff Bell, who was just a volunteer at that time. He is now the manager of New Hope Village. “We had to gut them to the studs because we found black mold and water damage throughout,” he explained. The volunteers also discovered that the charity was having a hard time keeping its doors opened.
The Diocese of Jackson stepped in to help create the new partnership. The diocese purchased the property. Bell acts as director under the new 501c-3. SHSM took over the food pantry and offered to help with some social services. “The work of Sacred Heart Southern Missions and Bishop Houck New Hope Village complement each other well,” said Father Krups. “We both offer vital services to support those who are most vulnerable — thus strengthening the fabric of the entire community,” he added.
“New Hope can put a roof over their heads, which is a good start, but we can help with the bigger picture,” explained Laura Grisham, SHSM development director. The missions already runs several food pantries so its employees are familiar with federal rules and best practices. They have a social service office at Holly Springs St. Joseph Parish so they can offer the long-term assistance many people need to step out of an emergency situation and into a recovery plan.
“Once we get them in the shelter, then they can come to the food pantry and get some food. We have training programs and resume help so we can assist them in getting a job. We can do more than just house them. This partnership can help people get back on their feet,” said Grisham.
Last summer the diocese took over the property and offered Bell the job of fixing it up and getting the operation back up and running. He lives in one of the units and has committed to live onsite for a year. He said the next step is to get community support. “We are trying to get the facility to a point where we can show it to the community and share our vision of what it could be so we can get the local churches, civic and county leaders involved.” The operation has a board at the diocesan level, but Bell is working to create a local advisory board. These board members would help with volunteers and fund-raising to hire more staff.
“This will continue the vision we had for the outreach to the poor of five counties in northern Mississippi,” said Hennen.
Currently two families and a handful of single men and single women are staying on the site. New Hope offers immediate overnight housing to anyone, but people can request to stay for 90 days. “During that time, the residents meet with me every week to tell me what they are doing to find a job,” said Bell. They can also take advantage of the social service office. If someone secures a job, but just can’t afford housing yet, they can apply to stay for up to nine months while they save money and seek housing.
“We are trying to give people a little breathing room – let them get a job and get a little money in their pockets without having to worry about rent or utilities for a little while,” said Bell. Several units on the site are still under renovation and Bell has plans to turn a larger building into a larger-capacity shelter for women and children. He takes on each renovation as its own project so he can continue to expand as he builds partnerships with the community and his board.
Bell is a general contractor. His daughter has volunteered to help with intakes and paperwork while she finishes school, but he hopes to add staff as funding sources come online. The charity can now accept donations to an account housed at the Bank of Holly Springs. Look for a facebook page in the coming weeks to keep up with progress.