Working to spark hope and drive out despair
The Kansas City Star
Imagine a place near downtown where 6,000 volunteers from 150 churches in 11 states and 30 agencies daily pool their resources without government help to lift Kansas City area residents out of homelessness.
It’s not a dream. It’s what Hope Faith Ministries makes happen with this community’s support.
It began in 2004 at a small place near Truman Road and Charlotte Street, offering breakfast and emotional, mental and spiritual support to mostly men. In 2011 it moved to a 47,000-square-foot facility at 705 Virginia Ave., where it is a safe, drug- alcohol- and weapons-free day center for homeless men, women and children.
It provides breakfast and lunch daily to 800 to 1,200 clients. But Desiree Monize, executive director of Hope Faith Ministries, explained that the agency with an annual budget of $780,000 and seven full-time employees does a lot more.
“What it’s about here is mobilizing the community to transform the community to eradicate homelessness,” Monize said. It is a grand concept, but she gets people to believe.
The 2013 Kansas City Young Matrons Gala will benefit Hope Faith Ministries because of Monize’s vision, said Karen Leimer, co-chair of the event. “All you have to do is talk to her and feel her energy,” she said.
On a tour, Monize said about 8,000 square feet is provided for nonprofit organizations to offer services to people who are homeless. Health care professionals staff a community clinic, which opened this month, offering medical, vision and dental services.
Six organizations serving veterans are in Hope Faith. Five help ex-offenders and offer prison outreach services.
Four agencies provide mental health and substance abuse services, four help with human trafficking and runaway youths. Others help homeless people with housing, jobs, education and legal services.
In addition, Hope Faith Ministries provides hair cuts, furniture, shoes, clothing, diapers, feminine hygiene products and groceries. It gives homeless people locker space for their belongings, a place to get mail and phone calls, computer access, case management and hot showers. Vans offer outreach services to people on the street.
“Our hope is to move people off shelters and the street into a home as quickly as possible,” said Monize, who has been with Hope Faith Ministries since 2008.
That drive is what attracted the 95-year-old Kansas City Young Matrons to title its 2013 gala “The Gift of Hope — A Night of Giving Benefiting Hope Faith Ministries.” The Jan. 26 event at the Marriott Muehlebach Hotel is expected to net at least $150,000 for Hope Faith Ministries.
“It’s truly an umbrella,” said Julie Cain, with Kansas City Young Matrons and a Hope Faith board member. “There is nothing like it in the city.”
Donations are vital because Hope Faith gets no government aid, Monize said. The bad economy has made homelessness a growing problem.
It’s not just in the downtown area. It’s in neighborhoods throughout town and the suburbs. Homelessness is consuming women, children, teens, the elderly and families.
Monize ran off some statistics: About 70 percent are men; 10 percent, immigrants; 60 percent, blacks; 30 percent, women with kids; 20 to 25 percent, veterans; and 10 percent, teens.
Some teens are involved in prostitution. Many are running from the police. Hope Faith tries to intervene, reuniting youths and families with reconciliation services.
One thing is clear here. Hope Faith Ministries is a place offering people an opportunity to help themselves out of homelessness and poverty with jobs, housing, education, counseling and training.
“We do not have a culture of enabling here,” Monize said. “The clients have helped build this place, and they help maintain this place. We definitely are always in need of donations.”
Monize believes in what she’s trying to accomplish and knows there are others with the stomach and compassion to help. “Most of us don’t have an awareness,” she said.
Monize is out to change that, and with her growing army of committed volunteers, she’s working to transform the community she serves from one of despair, which too many people face, to opportunity for all.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid call 816-234-4723 or send email to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.