House of Matthew challenges the vicious cycle of homelessness

// Get tickets now for fundraising concert Dec. 2 featuring electric violin genius Geoffrey Castle

For men just getting out of prison, it can be very hard to assimilate back into society, let alone find access to the most basic needs like safe and clean housing and a job. Veterans returning from combat, too, often find themselves in this same predicament, with post-traumatic stress compounding everything they are going through. To help these men, there is House of Matthew homeless prevention and life skills center in Tacoma. Offering transitional services and support, housing and life skills training, House of Matthew exists to challenge the vicious cycle of homelessness, to provide hope for a better tomorrow and to give perhaps the greatest gift of all – independence. “Our mission is to help the homeless overcome homelessness,” explained CEO Jeanette Twitty. “We try to do that in every possible way. “We believe that no one should experience homelessness; that no one should be without a safe place to call home.” House of Matthew is non-denominational but follows the principles of compassion in action as described in the Book of Matthew (25:35:36): “I was hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison and ye came unto me.” While House of Matthew focuses on men and cannot accommodate women and family housing at this time, the organization will help when called upon. House of Matthew also does not discriminate against the chronically homeless.

“We focus on men because there are so many services for women,” said House of Matthew President Melosha Turner. Together with Twitty (her mom) and dad Cornell Twitty, who runs the Rapid Employment Program, they are the foundation on which the House stands. Turner has plenty of “real world” training in advocacy from supporting her autistic son and from being homeless for a period in her life. In Florida, she led some great work at Umbrella of Hope to provide for those who are less fortunate. Jeanette Twitty has a nursing background combined with her caring and nurturing nature. As a couple, the Twittys have been spiritual bound residents of Washington for a combined 30 years. As parents of three adult daughters and one son, they have had the chance to understand the mistakes made in daily living, and those experiences led to establishing a place for second chances called House of Matthew. It was after spending about four years serving people out in Tacoma neighborhood that they were able to learn what specific needs are not being met by current service providers and then established House of Matthew to help fill the gaps. A veteran-owned business, House of Matthew is associated with the Tacoma Rescue Mission, Goodwill, World Vision, Tacoma Area Coalition for Individuals with Disabilities, Tacoma/Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness, the Veterans Administration Hospital and more.

Before moving into an actual house last month at 802 Martin Luther King Junior Way, House of Matthew services were already in action. “In 2008 we noticed that there was a really big need for services in Pierce County,” Turner said, which led to providing services wherever the people were who needed them. “We went to people where they were at – in their homes, in the hospital, a mental facility, a shelter… From there we began to build a list of resources and talking to people to find out what was going on and what they needed.” Housing showed to be a top priority. Today, House of Matthew manages apartment units and dorms throughout Pierce County with availability to house a minimum of 10 individuals at one given time during the temporary transition period in their lives. More than a shelter, House of Matthew provides short-term shared housing for six months while clients complete programs in life skills training, high demand job training, computer literacy and more. Clients can also get legal assistance, small business assistance and other such help. Its life skill training is open to the community. “You don’t have to be part of our programs to participate,” Twitty said.

Larry Nicholas is life skills coach at House of Matthew, one of numerous volunteers. He, too, has been homeless yet kicked his addictions and now is earning a degree in psychology and substance abuse counseling. At House of Matthew, he provides clients with transportation to appointments and errands like grocery shopping, assists with job training, creating resumes, financial budgeting, personal hygiene and even opening up checking and savings accounts. He also drops in on clients to check on them and how they are living. Turner said this is the way to get their clients out of the rut they are in – by showing them how. “The only way to overcome homelessness is to address the barriers that are causing it,” Turner said. “Once you do that, you can focus on the rest of your life because if you’re stuck thinking about everything else that’s going on, you can’t possibly break that barrier and continue on because you’re stuck in a rut. House of Matthew chips away at that rut. Once they finish our program we try to get them into permanent and affordable public housing.” House of Matthew is funded not through grants, but through partnerships and individual donors. Sunday dinners, available to the general public for pick-up and delivered to those who cannot travel, provide not only a delicious and nutritious home-cooked meal, but also a means for the House to raise funds. To reserve your dinner for pick-up (between noon and 3 p.m.), call (253) 301-0508.

With about six public fundraisers a year, these events provide much of the money needed to keep the House going. Tacoma Comedy Club has hosted successful fundraisers, and on Dec. 2 electric six-string violin virtuoso Geoffrey Castle is returning to give a fundraising concert, 7-9 p.m., at the Am-Vets Hall at 5717 S. Tyler St. Seating and a silent art auction begin at 6 p.m., dinner and entertainment is at 7 p.m. For tickets, $20 advance/$35 door, call (253) 301-0508 or visit http://www.thehouseofmatthew.org and http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/293746.

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