Construction To Expand Rogers’ Souls Harbor

Residents Find Brotherhood in Rogers Mission

Posted: December 22, 2013 at 5 a.m.

Resident Derrick Cara (cq) lights the pilot light on the stove to start cooking dinner for fellow residents on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, at Souls Harbor in Rogers. Souls Harbor is a transitional living facility which is building a new kitchen and dining facility to replace the current building.

ROGERS — Derrick Cara never expected to be homeless.

When he graduated from Missouri State University in May 2011, Cara said he was ready to take on the world. A couple years later, he found himself without a job or a place to live.

“It happens to the best of us,” Cara said.

The former Marine said he has found a camaraderie with the other men rebuilding their lives at Souls Harbor in Rogers, that a traditional homeless shelter doesn’t offer.

More than temporary shelter, Cara has found a home.

At A Glance

Souls Harbor History

• Four Souls Harbor locations were established in the late 1970s and early 1980s by a man named Art Jones, said Joe Hewgley, chairman of the Rogers Souls Harbor board. The groups aren’t affiliated today.

• Souls Harbor was founded as a men’s mission. After the dormitory was built about 15 years ago, the mission briefly tried housing both men and women, but found there wasn’t enough separation, and returned to serving only men a few months later.

• The mission has fed more than 100,000 meals and supplied 40,000 nights of shelter, Hewgley estimated.

Source: Staff Report

At A Glance

Souls Harbor Future

Three phases of improvements to Souls Harbor will expand the operation’s capacity, said Joel Atchison, director.

• A 1,500-square-foot dining hall built this year will replace kitchen facilities in the old house.

• The upstairs of the metal dormitory building will be finished to house more residents. Currently, two downstairs rooms house eight and 14 men with a common area.

• The original house, already remodeled upstairs, could be transformed into a welcome center downstairs.

Source: Staff Report

Pull quote

“Our mission is to walk along side men and teach them to dream again,” Joel Atchison, Souls Harbor director.

“It’s good to know that there are other people in the same shoes,” he said.

Soon the 1206 N. Second St. facilities will expand with construction of a 1,500-square-foot dining hall, kitchen and laundry facility.

“Our program has definitely outgrown our infrastructure,”said Joel Atchison, director.

Atchison hoped to have the building in the dry by Christmas, until snow and ice covered the construction site. Forecasted rain Friday postponed concrete work again.

There were 40 men on the waiting list for the center in mid-December, a list Atchison wants to keep short. Finding a man who has applied to Souls Harbor, but has no place to stay while he waits for a slot to open, can be hard. Twenty-five men were staying at the shelter Thursday night, two of them sleeping on couches. There’s no charge to residents. Atchison estimates $400 sponsors one man for a month. The dining hall is being built on faith, Atchison said, and the center is hoping for $30,000 in donations to finish the project.

Souls Harbor isn’t a residential treatment program and not a homeless shelter. It’s a place for people to transition, Atchison said.

Souls Harbor opened in the 1980s as a mission for homeless men, said Joe Hewgley, founding board member and current chairman.

“We’ve never been just an overnight place,” Hewgley said.

Not many people are ready to live in tightly packed bunks with little privacy and strict rules, Hewgley said. The mission is run with private donations.

“We have to run a tight ship,” Hewgley said.

The house on the property is 100 years old and was once a restaurant. The dormitory, a metal building, was built about 15 years ago, Hewgley said.

The new kitchen isn’t an effort to be extravagant, Atchison says.

The stove in the old house is from the time before the mission opened. A collection of refrigerators and freezers line the walls. The pantry for the center is on open shelves over old orange shag carpet in the living room of the house. The subfloor is worn smooth in the dining room where residents eat under tapestries of The Last Supper.There is one washer and dryer for all the residents and it runs 24/7, Atchison said.

Remodeling the kitchen to commercial standards wouldn’t be feasible and the area is too small, Atchison said. The new dining hall will have walk-in freezers and refrigerators, an expanded laundry area and storage for the pantry.

Residents sleep in bunk beds separated by lockers built of plywood in the dormitory. Upstairs in the metal building the woodworking shop in enclosed in dry wall, but the makeshift thrift shop next door still shows bare studs.

Finishing out the interior of that building is the next phase of improvements, Atchison said. If the dormitory upstairs were finished, they could house about 40 men.

Volunteers, including residents of Souls Harbor, will provide most of the labor to build the dining hall. Donated supplies will also keep costs to about $50,000, Atchison said. Sweat equity replaces rent at the center. Residents have already renovated an upstairs apartment, refinishing floors and cabinets. and texturing and painting the walls. They reworked plumbing and electrical and buffed and sanded the floor, Atchison said.

Builders often hire residents at the center and other microbusinesses help the men find work. There have been certified electricians and equipment operators living at the center, said Jonathan Allen, project manager.

“We’re taking the skills that some of our residents have and helping them be more self-sufficient on the job,” Allen said.

All the men living at Souls Harbor have faced homelessness, but rules at the center require them to volunteer, find jobs, avoid drugs and alcohol and save money. There is no set length of stay. Residents may be there a couple months or a year.

Men come to Souls Harbor for a variety of reasons, Atchison said. They may have just been released from a drug treatment program or prison, or they may be starting over from a divorce.

Dave Anderson arrived at Souls Harbor four days before Christmas last year. His hours were cut at his job and, rather than be evicted, Anderson and his girlfriend moved out of their apartment. Anderson lived in a day-to-day homeless shelter for a couple weeks before arriving at Souls Harbor. The difference was night and day, he said.

At Souls Harbor he doesn’t have to worry about another resident stealing his possessions. The men have a common goal for reclaiming their lives. Anderson looks on them as brothers. He’s required to have a job and, something he hadn’t done before, to save money. When he moves out, Anderson said, he’ll have money for a deposit on an apartment, utilities and enough money to buy food. He’s already bought a car and is working to get it fixed.

It isn’t his job now, but Anderson dreams of working in a bakery. He talks about elaborate cakes and sugar art shows with botanically correct flowers. Many people in the field are self-taught, Anderson said.

“Being here has allowed me to grab hold of this thing and really run with it,” said Anderson.

“Our mission is to walk along side men and teach them to dream again,” Atchison said.

“We think we’re creating a model that other communities can use,” he said.


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