Kathern Henderson looked toward her new living room in Buffington Towers in downtown Little Rock filled with a couch, dining room table, coffee table and other fixtures with a bit of both disbelief and gratitude. She quoted St. Luke, saying “To whom much is given, much is required.”
“This is the first time this has ever happened to me. I never had housing or food stamps until 2001,” the 54-year-old Jericho Way client said, adding she mostly had roommates, rather than a place to call her own. She admitted in the past she’s done “a lot of dumpster diving,” which makes having a furnished apartment that much more meaningful.
“It’s completely blown me away,” she said.
It’s furnished thanks to Settled Souls, a ministry that provides donated furniture, home goods and welcome packages to homeless clients who have been put into housing by Jericho Way, a homeless day resource center in Little Rock run by the Catholic nonprofit Depaul USA.
Jericho Way case workers mentor clients in various ways, from helping them apply for a job to understanding money management. To be considered for housing, a client must have an income or be eligible for a housing voucher, identification and have not had a felony in the past three years. Once it’s determined they are emotionally, mentally and financially prepared to stay in housing, case workers help them apply for housing assistance. A client will continue to be mentored by Jericho Way case workers as needed.
Settled Souls was approved for nonprofit status in March but began its ministry in February 2016. Our Lady of the Holy Souls parishioners Steve Hoffmann and Shannon Callahan, who conduct a weekly Bible study at Jericho Way, learned that clients who get into stable housing through Jericho Way have minimal means to furnish big items for a home or apartment.
Stephanie Byers, a member of Holy Souls, immediately spearheaded the ministry.
Beyond being strapped financially, Byers pointed out that many do not have vehicles and getting a bed or other large item on public transportation is not an option.
The nonprofit is run by volunteers and donations. The group rents two 800-square-foot storage spaces in midtown Little Rock to store items for at least three apartments at once. Each client receives more than 50 home items, including a bed, dresser, kitchenware and a television. (See sidebar below.)
Since April 2016, the ministry has coordinated 38 full moves and four partial moves, for those who already had some items, Byers said.
For those who can’t volunteer to help move, they always need donated items that are in good condition.
Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock provides laundry baskets for each client moving into housing filled with, “laundry detergent, mop, broom, a series of stuff to clean an apartment,” she added.
While moving and acquiring donations is a fast-paced game for the nonprofit, the work is driven by the divine.
“God is so involved in this. It amazes me on a daily basis. On every move you can feel his presence,” Byers said.
Jericho Way director Mandy Davis said Settled Souls listened to the needs of clients who have responded to the kindness with “tears, usually not even words.”
“It’s incredible. They’ve done so much for so many in this city and not many people know about that,” Davis said of Settled Souls. “… This need originated so clients did not have to decide between paying their rent and purchasing a bed. Nowadays, they don’t have to do that because of Settled Souls. Literally they’re settled; they pay their own rent, they don’t have to risk their housing because of furniture and household goods. That’s a huge blessing for the people we serve.”
Lindsey Taggart, one of the founders, board treasurer and parishioner of Holy Souls, said “We always say, ‘What did we do before this?’ It’s really filled something I didn’t know needed to be filled. I love it.”
Even when the nonprofit is out of an item and worry seeps into their minds, they’ll get a donation that fills the need and then some.
“I still have one of the first cards we got,” Byers said, from a client who, because of a miscommunication, waited two weeks for furnishings. “He had been laying on two mats, a pillow and a Bible next to him, with his backpack in the corner … he sent one of the nicest Hallmark cards I’ve ever gotten. This guy doesn’t have squat, but finds money to get us this beautiful thank-you card.”
It’s moments like that for Byers that prove she and all working with the nonprofit are the ones receiving the spiritual gifts.
“It’s corporal works of mercy — helping the least and they need it,” Byers said. “They’re so grateful. You just see it in their eyes.”
For ways to volunteer or donate, email or call or text (501) 557-3382.
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