The Empowerment Center will rely on city, county and private grants for operating expenses
When the congregation of Bibleway Community of Faith Church looked at the problem of homelessness in Wichita, they decided to commit to doing something to help.
“We recognized that the only way a person can truly get their life back together is to first have a home,” said Senior Pastor Bishop Jeffrey Enlow. “We decided to build a facility to first provide housing and second to help the residents get the other services they need to get their life back on track.”
That commitment resulted in the construction of The Empowerment Center at 2035 N. Jackson, across the street from the church, which sits at 2105 N. Jackson in North Central Wichita.
The 15-bed, 15-bath 24-hour facility will be dedicated at 11 a.m. on Jan. 13 and will welcome its first residents on Jan. 15. Tenants will be able to stay in the facility for up to a year and perhaps longer at the discretion of the director.
The church leadership is not directing the program, but has hired a director with experience at a similar center in another state.
Housing First, The Supportive Services
The center will provide comprehensive housing and supportive services to women with severely unstable or inconsistent living conditions.
“This is not a temporary shelter to get in out of the cold or the rain,” Enlow said. “This is a home, built hotel-style. Every woman will have a door that locks, a closet to put away her possessions and a private bathroom.”
The church raised the money to build the facility and will partner with the city, county and others to pay operating expenses.
“We are part of the national “Housing First” program that recognizes the critical role a home plays in helping an individual deal with whatever has caused their lives to shatter, whether that be mental illness, substance abuse, unemployment, domestic violence or facing life after incarceration,” Enlow said. “Our goal is to tackle the roots of homelessness and to tackle the problems one person at a time.”
Wichita Center Part of Multi-State Effort
The church is working with an Assertive Community Treatment Services team to provide integrated health, mental health, addiction treatment, employment support, transportation and other support services.
The ACTS teams in Kansas are part of the Mid-American Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, which serves Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. It is based at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and provides free training and technical assistance and is funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The Empowerment Center will be staffed around the clock and it will be a gated, secure facility requiring tenants or visitors to be buzzed in.
“We want this to be a place where women can feel 100% safe,” Enlow said. “This is a first-of-its kind facility for Sedgwick County and our goal is to add more rooms over time, with it eventually becoming a two-story building.”
He said he is well aware that it won’t be possible to solve every problem that a tenant faces, but the organization can provide the security and support that women in crisis need to overcome their problems.
“Both our county commissioner and our city councilwoman have visited the facility during construction and pledged their support to help secure funding to its operation,” Enlow said. “We are also seeking some help through the United Way.”
Bibleway Community of Faith members are committed to helping, he said.
“As a church, we deal with people facing crises every week,” he said. “That’s what we do and what we have done for 30 years. We are ready and willing to enter a relationship and establish the trust that will enable our tenants to see a bright future.
Bibleway Community of Faith has about 100 regular parishioners, most of them long-time members, Enlow said.
This article was republished here with the permission of: The Community Voice