“For I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” – Matthew 25:35
Love INC (In the Name of Christ) of Metro Tampa’s partner ministry, Portico Workforce Housing Solutions (PWHS), has a mission: “To mobilize local Christian churches and their trained members to transform the lives of single men struggling with homelessness and our Tampa community, in the Name of Christ.”
PWHS originated from Hyde Park Methodist Church at the Portico’s Director Justin LaRosa’s 2016 vision and interest in providing dignified housing for his dozen café workers, most with a history that blocks access to conventional affordable housing.
Since July 2016, PWHS has offered a transitional housing option designed to last six months to twelve men, bridging them from homelessness to permanent housing. In June 2018 PWHS purchased a second 3 bedroom home just blocks away from Busch Gardens. To date, PWHS has helped, or is in the process of helping eight tenants successfully transition from our program to permanent housing.
Since October 2018, Love INC’s Thad Bereday has worked to serve over 100 men – “the highest in His kingdom” as PWHS’ housing coordinator.
Here’s a PWHS Love Story:
“Fred’s journey from chaos to shalom; lives lived as God intended.”
5/24/2019 email from Thad to the Love INC Team:
“I really like our newest PWHS guest, “Fred”, who has taken over the last vacant room at the MLK house. I have spent a lot of time with “Fred”, know him well, and I believe in him. Yet, he has suffered three bicycle accidents during the three weeks that he has been in our housing. I have seen the evidence, and I believe this is all real, yet this is truly a remarkable string of bad luck. (!)
“Fred” is a smart and capable hard worker who has been making progress returning to employment as a contractor/handyman/scrap collector. He has been faithfully attending our Portico congregation and has strong leadership potential. He is smart, sensitive and physically fit.
Due to his accidents, he is behind on his weekly rent payments to us, but he will make us whole when he receives his check next week. He is currently bedridden at MLK, and I will be visiting him tomorrow and bringing him a case of water. The Help Center has been working on obtaining him a box of food from a local pantry. We will keep working on this. Please join me in keeping all our men in your thoughts and prayers and praying for a speedy recovery for “Fred”.
Epilogue: Hyde Park Methodist homily excerpts 5/26/2019
5/26/19, Surprising Detour, Acts 16:9-15
“Like Paul in this reading from Acts, God uses life detours to reach people for Jesus Christ. You have experienced this at one time or another in your life—we all have. Perhaps one is present right now. If you’ve never faced one—just wait—eventually, you will. Living life means that inevitably we will face them. I am referring to life’s Roadblocks. You’ve been there, when you think you’re on the right track. You plot, work hard, pray, discern, and move forward in some area of life. But then—POW! a barrier stops you in your tracks.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their heart a person plans their course, but the Lord determines their steps.” The author Paula D’Arcy says it this way: “God comes to you disguised as your life.” Maybe you have a roadblock in some area of your life. The direction you hoped to pursue, sputters. The person you love doesn’t love you anymore. The work project is failing, the job you thought you’d get, was given to someone else. What if… The roadblock was erected by God. And if God is in the roadblock, then the scripture points to something else that is true as well.
Here’s the point, your life detours often will not ONLY thrust you into the unknown—but they will also connect you to people and to places not previously in your plans and visions. God uses detours, even when we are reluctant to go. I am not saying that God creates all the obstacles we face, but God can use them. Lydia became the 1st Christian convert in Europe. Without the obstacle, we don’t have Lydia. And if Paul, Silas and Timothy don’t take the detour, Lydia and her household don’t experience the power of Jesus Christ.
I want to tell you about my friend, Thad. He is a regular at Hyde Park. He used to be a big-time lawyer. Lots of success, lots of money, lots of prestige. But then, he made decisions that landed him in trouble. So much so, he went to prison for 6 months. Everything fell apart. His former life was utterly destroyed. Prison transformed him; and was the place where he rediscovered Jesus even though he was committed to the church. He gave his life more deeply and fully to Jesus Christ. And when he got out, it wasn’t just a jailhouse conversion, it was a life conversion.
Obviously, his legal troubles erected obstacles. Obstacles that prevented him from pursuing his previous life plans; and that have forced him to take detours into the unknown. But he felt a call to help those in need. He didn’t get a clear vision like Paul, but a gnawing sense, deep in his soul. The sense was drawing him to serve those on the edges. That’s when Thad got involved in our Portico Workforce Housing Solutions.
PWHS started with four people around a table, 3 of whom are from this congregation. Theywitnessed and engaged the suffering of men in Open Arms who were experiencing homeless, who had a job, but didn’t have a place to lay their head. They heard the man calling from Macedonia. 2 ½ years later, [22 men have received over 500 nights of emergency housing ]and have had the opportunity to be bridged out of homelessness through the program. Many have been successful. Some haven’t.
PWHS is a partnership between Hyde Park, Open Arms, Love INC, 2nd Half Properties, and the Portico. We started with 1 house, and now have 2. Each have 3 beds. 2 men from The Portico Cafe have lived there. People from Open Arms have lived there. People coming from addiction, jail, and brokenness have found new life. We as a church have been called to serve those in need.
There are Macedonia’s all around us. God uses life detours to reach people for Jesus Christ. And Thad’s life detour has led him to these men. Places and people he would have never come into contact with. He has pivoted from the barriers and embarked on a life detour that has literally brought people to Christ and brought Thad to Christ. He interviews them, gets them settled, walks with them during their time. He conducts monthly meetings helping and holding them accountable to savings goals, recovery, and life stabilization.
God didn’t create Thad’s obstacles but has orchestrated his detour. Brothers and sisters, this is true for you. The wreckage and barriers in your life can help bring new life for others. The relationship that didn’t work out can lead you to a well-suited person to share life with. The struggles you have had with your children can help others. The addiction that had you down will allow you to take the hand and heart of others.
God’s invitation is to you and me is to take the detour. It will take you into uncharted territory. It will lead you to people and places you never imagined. But can lead to something better. Something better for you, and better for others. When taken with prayer and done in community, God’s purposes are fulfilled. And like Lydia and Thad, God will open the hearts of people to hear the gospel.
Go now and don’t be afraid, for the Lord Jesus is with you. In the name of The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. “
The Rev. Justin LaRosa