River of Refuge, Kansas City’s Transitional Housing Program dedicated solely to aiding homeless families transitioning to permanent housing, is launching a fundraising campaign for a second phase just in time for the nonprofit’s tenth anniversary of conception.
The Kansas City-based nonprofit will celebrate its first decade on February 12 with tours of the occupied first-floor apartments and architectural drawings illustrating plans for the second phase of eight 2, 3, and 4-bedroom apartments.
Mario Glynn and his seven children were one of the first residents at River of Refuge after they lost their home.
“We ended up moving with a friend in a one bedroom apartment,” Glynn told CBN News.
At that time, Glynn’s family was one of several families living at River of Refuge.
Pastor John Wiley is the motivating force behind the program.
River of Refuge: From Dream to Reality
In 2009 Wiley told CBN News about his dream of turning the vacant Park Lane Hospital into transitional housing for the homeless, many of whom had been living in pay-by-the-week motels. The hospital had been vacant for 10 years.
Wiley’s dream became a reality in 2016 when the first families moved in.
“It feels surreal, you know seven years of believing it was possible,” he said. “We’ve helped hundreds and hundreds of families over seven years but we couldn’t bring them here and give them a transitional place. But now we can so here we are in a former 150,000-square- foot hospital dedicated to families living in homeless.”
Wiley said the journey of transforming the abandoned building into apartments for needy families was long and hard but worth it.
“There were many nights where halfway through this project I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking what have I done because we had so many obstacles that seemed to be in the way. But over seven years I’ve watched obstacle after obstacle become removed,” he recalled.
“And so what it’s done for me personally, it’s changed my faith. And love compelled me to not talk way, to not give up, and to persevere so I say that it was love that caused me to push on,” he said.
Families at River of Refuge live rent and utility free during their entire stay as a team of caseworkers provide them with financial counseling.
While learning to break the cycle of homelessness, they can also save money and pay off debts.
An on-site pantry allows families to restock their kitchens with non-perishable food and there’s a used clothing store where they can shop for clothing.
Program Director Stephanie Keck said rising unemployment and utility costs have forced many families out of their own homes, creating demand for programs like River of Refuge.
She said after opening in May, there is already a waiting list to get into the program.
“Within the first 24 hours I had close to 30 people calling for help,” Keck said. “Just in that first 24 hours and we still get on average probably 20 people a week asking for help. This morning I had six people asking, ‘Can I apply for your program?'”
Michelle Robinson moved to Kansas City from Florida with her husband and two small children. Shortly after arriving, her husband’s job fell through and River of Refuge gave was able to give them a lifeline.
“We were living in a hotel before here and the length of time just drained our savings and it was a matter of a week we were going to be in our van,” Robinson said. “So it was by the grace of God that I found this place and were able to move in here and have a roof over our head.”
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