Homeless Shelter Program Helps Residents Get Back on Feet; Give Back

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Kansas City, Mo. -- A new program at the City Union Mission is helping people who turned to the Mission for help, now turn around and help others. Graduates of this new program will have the skills they need in order to get a job at the Mission.

Grace Owens is a shelter manager at City Union Mission's family shelter. She says she loves her job, because even though it's demanding, it's also rewarding.

"I see miracles every day in people's lives," Owens says, "it's very personal, people come here with nothing, they get a place, they get a job."

Grace knows what that's like. Several years ago, she was in their shoes. She lost her job, her apartment, and faced personal and family problems.

"I was more hopeless than homeless," she says, "I didn't know where to turn, just a lot of stumbling blocks in my way."

Owens turned to City Union Mission for help, and after taking classes to help her grow spiritually and personally, she turned to the new Servant Leadership Institute, so she could get the skills she needed to work at the shelter. After several months, she got hired on as a full-time shelter manager.

Robert Strong runs the program and says it's like an internship, offering on the job training.

"But that person who has been there and done that, they know what's going on, and can even address it a little differently than someone who would not," says Strong.

He says the program grew out of a demand by the people here, who felt a calling to help others.

"They see what we do, understand what we do, and at some point they get a desire to work in the ministry and give back," he said.

And sometimes he says it helps people who are struggling to see that things can change for the better.

"I talk to them about it every chance I get," says Owens, "If I can do it, you can do it."

The City Union Mission says the Servant Leadership Institute has been such a success that other shelters around the country are now looking at it, to emulate it.

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