“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)
These ancient words are part of the guiding force behind our Restoration vision of eliminating chronic homelessness in the city of Abilene.
It’s a big dream for our church and for the city of Abilene, and we’re excited to announce a newly formed partnership between Highland and CitySquare of Dallas. Joining forces with CitySquare will allow us to utilize their experience and expertise in creating a housing initiative which will address the needs of the Abilene community.
During the past two years, a housing team led by Highland members Bryan Gibbs and Paul Mathis conducted research on possible housing models and identifying community partners who could join our vision in making this dream a reality. The team’s recommendation of a Housing First model was based on the foundational principle that all people deserve to be housed, regardless of personal circumstances.
As the Highland team worked through many options, the issue of sustainability was a recurring challenge. Highland leaders asked important questions: how can our housing vision be a catalyst in Abilene? How can Highland best use funds creating housing opportunities while ensuring continuation of the project after the initial funding is used?
After much prayer and discernment, it was decided that a partnership with CitySquare was the best answer to these questions.
CitySquare leadership visited Abilene earlier this month to learn more about the needs of the unhoused members of our city. They found Abilene’s rate of chronic homelessness to be slightly higher than other cities in Texas, but close to the national average. This visit was the first step in the partnership, and CitySquare will follow up with a recommendation on how to proceed organizationally.
Our relationship with CitySquare is in the beginning stages, and there are many details yet to be decided. The first action is to conduct a feasibility study and begin strategic planning. It’s exciting to launch this vision initiative with CitySquare creating a housing project giving unhoused neighbors the chance to have a permanent residence. The CitySquare model will offer additional support for residents including increased access to social services and healthcare.
When Jonathan Storment initially shared his dream of ending homelessness in Abilene, he said, “We believe people who live on the margin have much to offer the community through their unique perspective and life experiences as well as the talents they have received from God. It’s our hope that we will meet Jesus as we become better neighbors, knowing that Jesus resides in the margins as well.”
Although the new housing initiative will be governed by CitySquare, Highland’s investment is crucial. Beginning in 2016, Highland will allocate funds from the Called Vision Campaign in three annual installments of $200,000, payable on January 2 of each year, 2016-2018.
However, our investment will need to be more than a financial commitment. Because this housing project is at the heart of our Restoration Vision, our personal involvement through hands-on engagement, such as volunteering and prayer support, is essential to the success of this partnership.
CitySquare personnel will have a presence in Abilene. These professionals will have the ability to equip our faith community as we work together to make a difference in Abilene. Highland will also ask for the formation of an Abilene Advisory Council, including at least five Highland members, to work with CitySquare as they learn Abilene culture, creating a new organization offering important services in the city.
Our Restoration Vision inspires good questions within our faith community. Many of these questions start with the words “I wonder.” As we begin this new journey with CitySquare, let’s allow our wonder questions to propel us forward as we seek to be people who unconditionally offer the hospitality and welcome of Jesus.
I wonder how Christian Ministries of Abilene will interface with CitySquare? I wonder how Highland members can support CitySquare and the residents of this new housing project? I wonder how we can fully engage in our neighborhood? I wonder how this housing vision will change our hearts? I wonder how we can speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves?
We ask you to join us prayerfully as the answers to these questions and many others continue to shape this project, making our dream of providing housing a reality in our community.