Joy, hope fill NUMAS Haus at open house
Catholics play crucial roles in establishing Brown County’s first homeless shelter
NEW ULM Oct. 2016 (The Prairie Catholic) – “I am just so thrilled – you cannot imagine.”
Sue (Holland) Wieland was delighted to see the renovations to the house at 606 Center St. in New Ulm, where she lived with her parents, three siblings, and grandmother in the late ’50s and ’60s.
Over the last several months, the property has been transformed into NUMAS Haus, a homeless shelter for single women and their families, thanks to many generous donations and the work of dozens of volunteers.
NUMAS Haus’ open house on Saturday, June 18 gave Wieland and her sister, Linda, a chance to visit their old home and reminisce.
Wieland said she was “ecstatic” to learn it was going to be used to help the homeless. “I couldn’t think of a better thing to happen to this house,” she said. “This is really wonderful. This house is going to have life.”
Going room to room, Weiland described to those around her the people and activities that had animated the house during her childhood and conveyed some of the joys and sorrows, laughter and tears she experienced.
“Just tell them that this room was full of love,” she said as she came to her grandma’s bedroom on the second floor.
“It will be again,” said Rev. Jo Anne Taylor, pastor of First United Methodist Church and president of the NUMAS Haus Board of Directors, who was tagging along with her.
Brown County has its first homeless shelter, thanks largely to the support of the local faith community. The New Ulm Ministerial Association, made up of representatives of several local churches, including First Methodist, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, and St. Mary’s Catholic Church, sponsors the house.
At the June 18 event, local residents got a chance to tour the home, learn how they can help homeless single moms and their families, and offer housewarming gifts of cleaning supplies, towels, and other necessities.
NUMAS (which stands for New Ulm Ministerial Association Shelter) Haus will serve single mothers and their children up to age 13, offering them a safe place to stay while children attend school and the mother is supported in seeking long term housing stability.
The goal is to help the families find permanent housing within 90 days of their coming to NUMAS Haus, but families would receive support services for up to two years. The home will serve up to three families at a time.
Shelter organizers say there are currently 40 children in New Ulm public schools with no permanent address.
“We learned from Jefferson Elementary that there were kids who didn’t have a home address, were couch hopping and even camping out,” said Rev. Taylor.
“We knew those kids were vulnerable and there was no resource here so they would need to be sent to Mankato or even St. Cloud. And that rips them out of the school environment and school may be the most stable part of their lives,” she said.
“Children repeat the behaviors they see in their families,” said Patty Paulson, shelter coordinator at NUMAS Haus. “If they grow up in a more stable environment and they learn the skills mom is learning, it’s a way to break that cycle and not encounter some of those obstacles their mom has.”
Paulson is a single mom herself and relied on community services to help her raise her daughter. She knows she could easily have been homeless if she didn’t have a support system of friends and family.
“Not everyone has that support system. Some single mothers are also dealing with language barriers, addiction, or mental health issues,” she said. “Living on a very low income, you’re faced with a car breakdown or a large medical bill, and very quickly you can find yourself so in debt that you can’t make payments and you lose your housing.”
Labor of love
Establishing the shelter has been a labor of love for more than two years. A house owned by First United Methodist Church became available when the church moved its youth ministry program into the church building. At that same time, leaders of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of New Ulm were looking for space where they could provide crisis counseling for families living with homelessness. The idea for NUMAS Haus was born.
“The program will help families stabilize following a crisis. Catholic Charities will offer crisis counseling to address the root causes of homelessness which can include domestic violence, addiction, post-traumatic stress, or abandonment,” said Tom Keaveny, Catholic Charities director. “We will work with NUMAS Haus staff and volunteers to find other resources in the community to help the families find permanent housing and the supportive services they need.”
“The special thing about this is to keep children’s lives from being disrupted, to keep them in the same school, around the same friends, to help them do better in school,” said Deacon Tim Dolan, director of the diocese’s Office of Social Concerns and a member of the NUMAS Haus Board of Directors.
“It’s just a little niche of the homeless challenge that we’re chipping away at. We know we have to come up with transition housing and how we help the families move forward. Breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness for good is the key goal,” he said.
Local people volunteered their time and donated resources to make the home ready. One example: women’s groups at Catholic parishes raised money and collected household items for the home. NUMAS Haus will continue to need local supporters to donate and to volunteer at the home.
“The New Ulm community and area churches and the New Ulm diocese have come together and made a huge difference,” said Rev. Taylor. “As long as we continue to work together, we can really make a difference in the lives of women and children.”
The first families were slated to move in by the end of July.
Organizers ask that people pray for NUMAS Haus and the families it will help. They also hope residents will share the word that homelessness in New Ulm is a real and growing challenge. You can find out more and see a list of items needed for NUMAS Haus at www.numashaus.org. You can also offer a tax deductible donation by sending a check to NUMAS Haus at P.O. Box 291, New Ulm, MN 56073.
Editor’s note: If you know other examples of how Catholics in the diocese are carrying out the seven corporal works of mercy during this Year of Mercy, please e-mail them to email@example.com. They will be considered for future stories in The Prairie Catholic.