One of the things that happened early on in my time as a member of our church was that the church had a chance to buy the property that was located between our church and our parking lot. Doing so gave our congregation continuous land from the Christian Ed building/sanctuary, paprish house, this other property and on to our parking lot. Wary of who or what might otherwise locate there was a concern to those leading our congregation.
So suddenly we were the proud owners of a two story house that has been another lawyer's offices. What to do with the property? Our congregation did what is often done when such things arise, we formed a committee. Other than singing this was one of the first things I became involved with. Lots of ideas were kicked around, such as just renting it out, tearing it down and paving it over, among others.
This was one time where as a lawyer I saw a need. I had been practicing for a couple of years and had started to become involved in family law cases, some of which are exacerbated by issues of abuse. Getting a protective order against an abuser is one thing, and the abuser can be evicted from a residence, but this is not as simple as it sounds in real life. what if the only breadwinner just got kicked out and you will not get support money for months? What if you are just too scared to stay because the abuser will violate the order- the law is not enough? What if you are in a bad landlord tenant situation and you need safe housing? None of these need long term solutions when first there is an immediate need.
So I pitched the idea of transitional housing. To my surprise the committee was on board because it fulfilled a ministry role for an identified need. We were able to furnish the apartment from donations within the congregation. I drafted the housing agreement and had it reviewed by a the local district judge to assure its enforceability.
When I became aware of a need, I met with the person, we reviewed what the "rules" of the housing were. We clarified the time which the housing could be used and explained that if someone stayed too long it meant someone else was out in the cold.
With a couple bumps in the road over the last 15 years it has served a valuable purpose. Perhaps my two "favorite" times- defined as being good we have had the resource were:
1. People called me with an apartment that had just been condemned because the roof was collapsing. It had a hole in the roof, the snow was coming through, and had shorted out the electric. The family was heating with kerosene and the daughter was treating for Hodgkins. The 30 days with us allowed the family to pool resources and get a refund form the landlord of rent through the legal process.
2. A client of mine had an alcoholic spouse who was abusive. Even though she got an order for protection my intuition told me he would be back. I convinced her to move with the children to our apartment. He did come back swinging an ax. There was only one way in and out of the apartment. The resident downstairs heard the commotion and called the police- he was arrested. The family was already elsewhere.
We have more recently hosted Mekeshti Turks who are resettling here after excaping persecution.
This was my first foray into real faith in service. Each time I work for the kingdom helping those others would rather not get their hands dirty with, I come away learning more from them than I can imagine