by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “This place has a rich history of serving different groups and constituencies of people,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. “I think the Lord will be very pleased with the new purpose for this house.”
On Dec. 16, Archbishop Naumann blessed the new location of Shalom House, a men’s transitional housing program run by Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
The 27,000-square-foot facility, located on 33 acres in Kansas City, Kansas, was constructed in 1898.
It has served as a home for the mentally ill, a nursing home for the elderly, a shelter for refugees and, most recently, the Sanctuary of Hope retreat center.
Now, it will be a refuge for men in need of a home.
Lauren Solidum, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, expressed her hope for the ministry’s future to the crowd gathered at the reopening event.
“We’re excited to get started and try to end homelessness in Kansas City, Kansas,” she said. “Thanks for joining us on the journey.”
‘A dignified experience’
Shalom House was created in 1973 and taken over by Catholic Charities in 2008.
According to program director Tenesha Williams, it closed in June 2021 so the new location could undergo renovations. The plan is to welcome guests in mid-January.
Men from a variety of backgrounds will find shelter at Shalom House, where the end goal will be permanent housing.
“You have those that have just fallen down on their luck and need some additional support and are ready for a transition into permanent housing,” said Williams.
“Those are the individuals that we’re serving,” she added.
The new site offers 30 sleeping rooms, a kitchen and dining area, chapel, computer lab, exercise room, gathering space, meeting rooms and more.
The building is handicap accessible and can house up to 60 men, a 36-person increase from the previous location.
Residents will have the opportunity to stay up to 12 months and receive after-care case management up to three months after they’ve moved out.
“Our goals are self-sufficiency, family reunification, living wage jobs and higher education credentials for each person served,” said Solidum.
Williams said the new location will give guests “a dignified experience” and ensure “they have all the supportive services in place that can assist them and not allow them to go back into homelessness.”
“We all need help at times,” she added. “We just want to make sure that we are there — and the men know that we are there — to support them.”
Along with clothing, food and shelter, Shalom House provides an extensive range of services and will now be able to offer many of them on-site.
It partners with various organizations, including Care Beyond the Boulevard, Cross-Lines Community Outreach and the Wyandot Center, to provide mental and physical health screenings, general education and literacy referrals, higher education certifications and degrees, and more.
Solidum said these offerings can “free [guests] from the chains of poverty.”
Moving forward, she hopes Shalom House can “engage a number of volunteers to support our work, bring meals, hold support groups and Bible studies.”
“I pray that the men have the openness of heart to remain steadfast in the battle against poverty,” she added, “and that they take advantage of the many services that will be provided within the program.”
A path to success
Since Williams became the program director in October 2020, she’s witnessed a number of success stories among the men at Shalom House.
“In our last location before closing, I was able to [move] five men into permanent housing,” she said, as well as help them find employment.
“And, so, of course that made them feel really good,” she continued. “But that also made us feel good as Catholic Charities to be able to help guide them in that success story.”
One of the men had no birth certificate, Social Security card or other identification, a problem preventing him from attaining employment, which he ultimately achieved because of Shalom House.
“[Another] was able to get a house,” said Williams. “He had never lived in a house independently, and he’s been doing great. I still keep in contact with him just so he can know that I’m still here whenever he needs.”
During the reopening event, Archbishop Naumann expressed his appreciation for Shalom House and his hopes for its future.
“We pray that all those that will come here will find the peace of God’s presence and God’s love,” he said. “It will be a place where many of them will be able to rebuild their own lives.
“I look forward to seeing how many will be touched in a profound way by their experience here at Shalom House.”
To learn more about Shalom House, visit the website at: catholiccharitiesks.org/where-we-work/shalom-house.