New ministry designed to help women with children find shelter moves to build stage

Rev. Jimi Staton, pastor of New Life Fellowship, stands in front of the house the church purchased for $50 that will become the Women and Children’s Life House residence, once renovations are complete. The ministry is expected to be open to residents in October.
Rev. Jimi Staton, pastor of New Life Fellowship, stands in front of the house the church purchased for $50 that will become the Women and Children’s Life House residence, once renovations are complete. The ministry is expected to be open to residents in October. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published June 15, 2017.

A new ministry devoted to helping women with children find shelter and get back on their feet has moved from the vision stage to the hammer and saw stage.

New Life Fellowship, which has had plenty of experience in town running the New Life Community Meal Ministry downtown and the Women’s Life House shelter has begun the rehabilitation phase of its new Women with Children Life House ministry. Pastor Jimi Staton says adding the second house for women – this one allowing children – fulfills a need the church was not able to previously meet.

“Since the first two weeks that we were open back in 2012, we would get the single women coming in, but we were automatically faced with women who had a child. We had to say ‘no,’ because it just wasn’t a safe house for women with kids,” Staton explains. “So we’ve been doing that for five years, turning away women with kids.”

New Life Fellowship had initially had a vision to start a men’s shelter, Staton says, but God called the church to focus on ministering to women with children instead.

“We got a letter from somebody at the city saying we might be interested in some type of property sale,” he says. “So we got that house for $50. They had a lot of lots and some other houses, and there was several people there, but nobody else wanted it.”

Despite being a bargain, the house, located at 338 Court St. and adjacent to the church’s Women’s Life House home, is not without its problems. Water damage affected the front door area and porch, and carpeting and vinyl floor coverings had to be torn out, among other issues.

“It smelled so bad in here,” Staton says, looking around the living room, where there are now bare wood floor boards exposed. “You can’t imagine how bad the carpeting was.”

Other plans call for removal of one of the former duplex’s kitchens, replacing a water heater, installing new siding and putting up a privacy fence to create a safe play area for youngsters.

In the meantime, the hammers and saws are moving as fast as the church can get help to do the work. Several missions groups have come for short stints to lend a hand, most recently from Berea, KY. Staton hopes to recruit more to work over the summer. Some groups are located as far away as Florida and Alabama.

“These guys take their whole week’s vacation, and they come in,” he adds. “And they’re all contractors, so we’re hoping they’ll come here and help us.”

Work is expected to continue through the summer months, with a target date of Oct. 1 to open the house to residents.

“We always set goals,” Staton says. “We don’t always get to the goal, but at least we have a marker.”

The house will be able to take up to four women, depending on the number of children they have. In addition, a live-in manager will also keep the house occupied at all times. Security cameras will also be installed to add an additional element of safety for the residents.

In addition, New Life Fellowship Church is seeking to hire another person to oversee the house two evenings per week, once it is open and accepting residents.

Church leaders are working on developing programs for the residents that will help them overcome various problems in their lives and enable them to become self-sufficient. A life recovery class, similar to the one that is taught at the Women’s Life House, will likely be required, as well as some parenting classes.

“We also believe in working,” Staton says. “The Bible says if a man doesn’t work he doesn’t eat. We understand that not everybody can hold a job, but if somebody is capable of working we believe that they do need to work. So we’ll be working with that.”

Staton says he also plans to work with the Boys & Girls Club on behalf of the children who will live in the house. He is grateful to those who have partnered with New Life Fellowship in the past to minister to the people of Huntington.

“It’s a good program. There are people helping to make this happen, and so many places here in town that are helping make this happen,” he adds.

Although Huntington already has one women’s shelter that accepts children, Huntington House, Staton says it is usually full, putting the community back in the position of having to turn women away. When it is open, the Women with Children Life House will allow more single-parent families in crisis to find shelter from life’s storms and give them a leg-up to get back on their feet, both financially and spiritually.

“We’re excited about it. People have been asking us when we’re going to get it open, because there has already been a need. I mean, Huntington House has done a great job with what they do, but it’s hard to find a place that takes women with children, he says. “We feel like the Lord has been good to us and has given us some more of this block around the church, and the two houses on this block.”