Redemption. Strong Foundation keeps homeless families together, offers more than shelter.

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December 02, 2019 By Amy Morgan

The family was desperate. Having been cast from their home, unexpected circumstances had taken them over a bridge which collapsed behind them. Their children sensed the chaos swirling around them, even while family and friends tried to help. Next stop: the streets.

Residents at the Strong Foundation have fun with arts and crafts during KidzTime at the Strong Foundation’s Family Missions Center.
Residents at the Strong Foundation have fun with arts and crafts
during KidzTime at the Strong Foundation’s Family Missions Center. 

Thankfully, someone told them about Strong Foundation, where they would find life changing transformation. Pastor Jim Gipson and his wife, Carolee, Founders of Strong Foundation, share the truth that Jesus is the answer, while providing urgently needed food, clothing and shelter. 

“I believe the Lord put it in my heart and gave me the vision to help homeless families with children get back on their feet and have changed lives,” Pastor Jim says. 

Strong Foundation is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian ministry allowing families to remain intact while they work toward having a better life. Since 2004, more than 3000 — half of whom are children — have come through their doors. Most leave Strong Foundation with newfound strength and with radically changed hearts and habits. 

Pastor Jim gives a hug to one of the 1,500 children who’ve temporarily found refuge and a new start at the Strong Foundation.
Pastor Jim gives a hug to one of the 1,500
children who’ve temporarily found refuge
and a new start at the Strong Foundation.

Despite common misperceptions of someone who is labeled “homeless,” families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, Pastor Jim says. They’ve helped more than 750 families so far. 

No matter the myriad of reasons a family finds itself in crisis and homeless, homelessness is never the children’s fault, he stresses. The key to helping the children is to help the whole family.

Strong Foundation is so much more than just an emergency shelter. The ministry welcomes participants who are committed to getting back on their feet.   

Potential residents are thoroughly interviewed and background-checked prior to enrollment to ensure a child-safe environment.

“We meet them right where they are and help them begin to rebuild their lives,” Pastor Jim says.  “Keeping the family together is huge! Oftentimes families are separated, making it difficult to get kids to school, obtain services and get to work. We are a central location where they can all be together.” 

A mural at the Strong Foundation depicts the level of despair a family feels before they reach the Strong Foundation and hope they feel when they leave. The mural was created by Frank Cadena, a local artist.
A mural at the Strong Foundation depicts the level of despair a family feels before they reach the Strong Foundation and hope they feel when they leave. The mural was created by Frank Cadena, a local artist. 

To stay at Strong Foundation, participants must agree with the parameters — no drinking, no drugs and a 10 p.m. curfew. Requirements also include enrollment in the onsite CPS-approved parenting classes and in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace classes. Participants are also expected to look for work and take steps toward finding full time employment. They agree to attend Discover JOBS (Joy of Being Successful) class at 8:15 a.m., where they set goals and work to meet them. Christian counseling and 12-step programs are available in house to help participants overcome “Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups,” as Pastor Jim calls them. Families are invited to attend church on Sundays. Once they leave, participants are encouraged to follow God’s plans and connect with a local church to continue to grow in Christ.

We meet them right where they are and help them begin to rebuild their lives.
— Pastor Jim Gipson Founder, Strong Foundation

Strong Foundation’s name reflects the ministry’s commitment to the Lord. Their motto: “The Strong Foundation that everyone needs is a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

A volunteer gives a Strong Foundation resident child a fresh haircut.
A volunteer gives a Strong Foundation
resident child a fresh haircut.

“We encourage everyone to give God a chance to do whatever He wants to do in their lives. Life is better with Christ no matter the circumstances,” says Pastor Jim. 

Because Pastor Jim and Carolee prioritize the gospel, Strong Foundation is not funded by the city, state or federal government. Instead they are completely supported by private donors and partner churches, so they are not restricted in any way from sharing Christ. 

“We are a recognized homeless shelter, but we still prioritize evangelism and discipleship,” Pastor Jim says. “There is no lasting change that comes without the power of Christ.”    

One graduate of the program is a living example of the difference Strong Foundation has made. There’s been a ripple effect; the changes happened not only in her life, but also in the lives of her children. Her family of six arrived at Strong Foundation in 2012. She describes her relationship with Jesus and their commitment then as “shaky.” She returned to her abusive relationship for a short time, but after a few weeks knew she needed out.  

Middle school age kids have fun during KidzTime at the Strong Foundation’s playground.
Middle school age kids have fun during
KidzTime at the Strong Foundation’s
playground.

“I called Pastor Jim,” she says. “I thought, ‘I wasn’t the nicest person. I didn’t follow the rules.’ But I was at rock bottom.” After some convincing to allow her a second chance, Pastor Jim gave her the “tough love that was 100 percent needed,” she says. When he agreed she could return, she was relieved beyond words. “I knew there was hope. I hit the floor of the police station bawling my eyes out.” 

The second time around, she embraced everything offered. She credits Strong Foundation with saving her life and that of her kids. The Dave Ramsey program spurred her to pursue a career in accounting. Now she works two jobs, is completing a college degree and helps others learn how to budget. She’s a regular in her church, where her nine-year-old sings as a member of the worship team.

Friends of Strong Foundation serve a holiday meal they prepared on the patio at Strong Foundation.
Friends of Strong Foundation serve
a holiday meal they prepared on the
patio at Strong Foundation.

“I was living in God’s house, and God’s house changed my life,” she says. “I’ve started to believe in myself again.” 

The origination of Strong Foundation’s facility itself is another miracle. As Pastor Jim recounts, God put it on the heart of the owner of a former nursing home to give them the building at 414 N. Hackberry. Pastor Jim received the call Christmas Eve of 2003: the building, valued at $516,000, was theirs free and clear!

In early 2004 they learned of a young homeless couple who needed help. They were not quite ready to open yet, but Pastor Jim offered the husband a chance to help move in furniture, and the wife eventually delivered the first of 35 babies born to those staying at Strong Foundation. That child is now 15 years old and the family called to tell Pastor Jim about their successful endeavors in Oregon, where they have relocated. 

Pastor Jim describes many served by Strong Foundation as having descended to the lowest point of their lives when they become homeless. Another former resident — a single mom — recently posted on Facebook, “We were at a place we never imagined we would be, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us.” 

The entrance to Strong Foundation is warm and inviting, which is important to families in crisis.
The entrance to Strong Foundation
is warm and inviting, which is
important to families in crisis.

Strong Foundation depends on the generous donations of Christ’s people who value funding work that advances God’s kingdom. The facility can accommodate up to 16 families at a time. This might include 50-60 people, more than half of whom are children. The ministry operates as a local mission center and benefits from hundreds of volunteers each month who help with everything from cleaning, leading classes, landscaping, light construction, maintenance work and meals. Another opportunity called KidzTime is critical.  Here, volunteers interact with the children while parents attend life-skills classes or Bible studies.

“Without God’s people supporting us the way they do — we do not exist,” Pastor Jim says.  “Everyone who gives, prays or serves is part of what we do.”

Volunteers are invited to consider the convenience of mission work in their own backyard and are encouraged to serve with their families. Often church Life Groups will serve together with their own children.

KidzTime volunteers and resident children dance to music on the playground at the Strong Foundation.
KidzTime volunteers and resident children dance to music
on the playground at the Strong Foundation.

“We are a mission center.  People from local churches and organizations can serve while staying faithful to their local church,” Pastor Jim says. Opportunities to serve can be found on their website. If you want to help a family get back on their feet and begin to strengthen their relationship with Christ, you can! The Lord has provided a place where lives are being changed, and we can all be a part. All they need is Strong Foundation’s proven track record and you. Let’s help Strong Foundation continue to be a beacon of light in our community for families that need hope and a hand up.

Strong Foundation

Strong Foundation
www.strongfoundation.org
414 N. Hackberry St., San Antonio, TX 78202
(210) 641-HELP (4357)

 

Be A Light.

Give. Donor dollars keep the doors open and the lights on so the gospel can be shared. Share. Investigate how your church can become a supporting partner through time or treasure. Volunteer. Bring your group and children to serve at this local mission. Pray. Pray for the ministry to continue being a part of helping to change the lives of families through the love of Jesus.

Written by

Amy Morgan

Amy Morgan has written and edited for The Beacon for the past 9 years.


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