In Your Community

Pay It Forward: Kingdom Center provides hope for homeless

Monday, May 23, 2011
The Kingdom Center, a nonprofit attacking the homeless problem, was one organizations awarded with $7,000 to Pay It Forward.

The Kingdom Center, a nonprofit that attacks the homeless problem in Southern California, was one of seven organizations awarded $7,000 to Pay It Forward.

The former mayor of Ventura described the Kingdom Center as an example of the community coming together to solve an issue in a way government simply can't on its own. Its success shows that it might serve as a model for communities all around the country.

The Pay It Forward submission video showed images of people living on the streets that are all too familiar, but it revealed an alternative that's never been tried before.

Churches of all denominations joined together to transform an old, run-down motel into a safe place for homeless families to stay.

"This was the worst crime-ridden place in the city. There was more drug trafficking, prostitution, murders, crime in this hotel than any other place in the city," said Pastor Sam Galluci.

Galluci said the idea for the Kingdom Center was just a crazy dream they had, but they knew they couldn't do it alone, so he asked 22 different area churches for help - despite the fact that they are all from different denominations.

"What happens when we work together as we do, we realize, the differences are pale in comparison to what we have in common. It's the poor that helps us understand that," Galluci said.

Each church designed and constructed one room and supported the family living there.

Johanna Marizela Neff-Horton's room at the Kingdom Center is much more than a home. To her, the place symbolizes hope and love.

A judge took Neff-Horton's son away because of her drug addiction. But with her newfound stability and sobriety at the Kingdom Center, she's preparing her son's new bed.

"It means the world to me that my 9-year-old will finally be back with us, that I've straightened up and I can be the mother that I truly want to be and should have been," she said.

To choose which families would be admitted to the Kingdom Center, the churches pooled their money and hired a case manager.

"We get literally hundreds of calls a month, typically from people who are either threatened with homelessness or are homeless," said senior case manager Leslie Eschrich.

The Kingdom Center provides a home for people like Summer Gibbons and her two kids.

"It kind of feels like family, and it just feels like, 'OK, this is where I'm supposed to be,'" Gibbons said.

Still, the back half of the center is in disrepair, and the pastor says ABC7's $7,000 could fix that.

"There's no stairs. The money would allow us to put the stairs in and would allow us to put another 20 people (in), get them off the streets," Galluci said. "We are so honored to be a part of this, and for sure, we will pay it forward."

The Kingdom Center wants to use a similar model to tackle issues like helping victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

If you would like to contact the Kingdom Center or donate to the organization, go to www.thekingdomcenterventura.com.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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