In the past few years, Interfaith has received several inquiries about our Home Repair and Rehabilitation Program from other counties and communities, as they looked for ways to address their deteriorating housing stock. Jeff Thomson, Interfaith’s Director of Community Revitalization, and Interfaith’s Leadership Team wanted to assist these communities, but funding for these services was a challenge. This past spring, an opportunity and funding to serve in Rice County became available and Interfaith Kansas Housing Assistance Network (IKHAN) was established.
The idea began with a phone call from a daughter with an aging mother in Lyons, Kansas, needing assistance with bathroom modifications in her home. This phone call and a subsequent visit with God’s hand on it, led to multiple conversations and introductions to just the right people. The first project that came together was a wheelchair ramp for a ten-year-old young man named Micah suffering from Rasmussen* Syndrome. When this debilitating disease struck this young man, he went from being a normal ten-year-old to a child enduring major medical hurdles, living in a wheelchair and struggling to learn to speak and walk again. The volunteer turnout from the Lyons community to assist with this project was tremendous and developed the relationships needed to move forward in this partnership. After much physical therapy, Micah has started the process of walking again; however, he will need the ramp for years to come.
The process of helping other communities recreate what we have done with our Home Repair and Rehabilitation (HRR) program for over 30 years moves at the speed of trust. The first step in this process is creating relationships in communities and identifying public leaders with like-minded goals and perspectives. These leaders can come from a variety of organizations such as government, churches, social service organizations, non-profits or others. We help develop these community leaders and assist in their search for grants and local funding to create a self-supporting program. Pieces of this process include things like creating an event recognized by the communities themselves and achieving some public recognition. One such example in Rice County is Brush Up Rice, where we are in the process of identifying five homes in five different Rice County towns that need painted. The homeowners are not physically capable of painting their home due to age or disability, so volunteers from that community will be recruited to do the painting.
With work underway in Rice County, Jeff was just approached by Pratt County requesting IKHAN come to their communities. We believe this is just the beginning of opportunities for IHCS to help other areas with their housing needs. It is an honor to be God’s Hands and Feet wherever we are called.
*Rasmussen encephalitis is characterized by frequent and severe seizures, loss of motor skills and speech, paralysis on one side of the body (hemiparesis), inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and mental deterioration.