BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — A pastor who runs a soup kitchen in Bastrop is looking for sponsors of several short-term mini-shelters for homeless families he’s putting on his property.
Pastor Roland Nava, of In the Streets-Hands Up High Ministry and the Open Door Soup Kitchen, already has three large sheds that he’s converted into fully-furnished shelters with electricity and space for a family of five or more. Two of them will open to families who need them next week, and he’s aiming to add seven more in the coming weeks.
“They’re going to be their temporary home, and we want them to feel comfortable,” Nava said. He couldn’t find anything quite like these shelters in Bastrop County that lets families stay together when they find themselves homeless.
“I have seen two families that actually split up, that got divorced, that broke up because of their emergency,” he said.
All it takes is one crisis for a family to fall through the cracks — just one emergency to make keeping a roof over your head difficult to maintain. Jeff Randle knows all about that. He and his family were at the soup kitchen last week enjoying a free tamale breakfast.
“Pastor Nava, you know, he’s helped us out tremendously,” Randle said.
His family was preparing to move into a duplex in Houston last year after leaving a bad rental situation in Bastrop. Two days before they were set to move in, Hurricane Harvey hit the city and flooded the home. “So just like that, like boom, we’re like homeless, and I’ve never even thought of nothing like that in my life.”
Since then, the four of them have been staying in a hotel room in Central Texas and eating at the soup kitchen when they can. It’s been hard for them to save the money they’re making to find a permanent place to live.
“As long as we’re paying what we’re paying right now, it’s impossible. And it’s just keeping us stuck,” he said.
Randle and his family will be staying for free in one of Nava’s shelters when they open next week. Just a month or two should be enough, Randle thinks, to save up enough to put down the first and last month’s rent at a new home. While they’re waiting, they’ll be staying in the same place.
“We want them to feel the sense of family, togetherness through their hard time, through their situation,” Nava said. Families will be able to stay for up to three months on the property. “We want them to be encouraged, you know, that things can get better.”
The three shelters and a shower house on the property are sponsored by local businesses and a church. First National Bank and Amazing Floors sponsored one each, paying to outfit the converted sheds with homey touches, as did Bastrop Christian Church. Barrientos Construction Services sponsored the shower house.
Nava is looking for sponsors for the next seven shelters he wants to put on his property. Any business, company or group that wants to sponsor a shelter can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 512-317-7503 or go on his organization’s Facebook page. Groups can buy just the shed for about $3,500, or pay to have it completely outfitted for about $6,000.
Nava said he already has three more families looking for a place to live when they’re ready.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find the words to properly thank him,” Myranda Watson said, tears rolling down her face. “But it’s a blessing, a huge blessing.”
Watson will be moving into one of the three shelters already here with her 3-year-old daughter, Alice. They’ve been paying too much for a hotel, too, after Watson was hurt on the job. “I was faced with — we either stay in the hotel and we pay more than we can afford, or we’re homeless,” she said. “There was nowhere else for us to go.”
The free place to stay will give her the chance to save up for a permanent home, too, so she can offer her daughter stability moving forward. “We’re going to be able to get a better life and have a better life for my child, and I’ll never be able to thank him for that.”