Construction management students from John Brown University will be using their skills this semester to help the Genesis House prepare its new location.
The students and many other volunteers will be renovating an old home on North Inglewood Street into a facility for the ministry, which serves the homeless of Siloam Springs. The site will provide enough room for offices, a food pantry and a diaper bank.
Some of the guests at Genesis House who have experience in contract work will be helping on the renovation project.
“It’s always good when people work with people who are homeless because it destroys stereotypes,” said Gary Baird, Genesis House’s director.
Caldwell said he is glad his students will gain an understanding of how “a small-town homeless shelter looks.”
The ministry needed a new building, Baird said. In the current space, workers organize papers at a large table in the kitchen, while also trying to prepare food to give guests. Staff covered the disinegrating bathroom floor with plywood. They must slam the front door to close it properly.
The offices and waiting room, which once served as bedrooms and a living room, are often overflowing with people. Privacy is essential as part of the nursing service provided at Genesis House, so overcrowding makes things difficult.
“It’s something more than building a house. It’s building a home for people who have none. It’s amazing to be part of something like that,” said Brock Ediger, one of the three seniors heading the project.
“It’s a great way to use what I learned in college to help others,” said Ediger. “We get so caught up with making money and the American dream, and there are other people who don’t get that chance.”
Caldwell said the new site is an abandoned home, but will be renovated to provide more office space than current location has.
To complete the project in timely manner, half the crew will stay on campus to work the steel structure and the other half will work on remodeling the site, Ediger said.
Moving to a larger space that Genesis House will own is an important step toward building their own center in the future.
The ministry’s current location is owned by the city, which first leased it to Genesis House in 2004. The city is now planning to make it into a public maintenance building.
University students previously helped the ministry renovate a house it received as a donation. The community in that neighborhood opposed having an emergency center on their street, so the ministry decided to sell it.
“[The move has] been a good thing because it has forced us to take the next step,” Baird said.
The ministry plans to use the new space to add computers for guests to fill out online applications for jobs or food stamps, he said.
Baird would also like to see the ministry begin a summer feeding program for children in the Siloam Springs area. Eventually, the goal is to transition to an overnight emergency shelter.
Students are helping to keep costs down by volunteering their time, Baird said. In addition, their volunteer hours are recorded to show potential donors that the community cares about and supports Genesis House.
The government and large corporations can also match their hours monetarily, which Ediger said has been interesting to watch.
The project should be completed in early November.