Ministry With: NUMAS Haus
Root causes of poverty are diverse and complex and the outcomes of economic insecurity manifest in distinct ways.
Root causes of poverty are diverse and complex. From the lack of affordable housing to the need for a living wage, there is no shortage of reasons why someone might experience poverty. Outcomes of economic insecurity can also manifest in distinct ways. Experiencing homelessness is just one of these possible outcomes.
United Methodists across the connection are engaged in ministry with their unhoused neighbors. One such ministry in New Ulm, Minnesota, works to meet immediate needs while simultaneously addressing root causes of poverty.
We spoke with the Rev. Jo Anne Taylor to learn more about NUMAS Haus.
Tell us about the ministry.
NUMAS Haus provides shelter and support services to unhoused single women and their children in the Brown County area of southern Minnesota. The ministry developed from a conversation in a New Ulm Ministerial Association meeting with a Brown County social worker. When asked where the churches might work together to meet a need that Social Services could not, she replied, “We have no homeless shelter in all of Brown County.” Discussions with school counselors revealed that a number of children had no permanent address, and many of these came from single-mother families. The New Ulm Ministerial Association Shelter Haus was established to provide single women and children the stable shelter and support services they need to begin building a new life. Those services include mental health screening, ‘good renter’ training, assistance in finding employment and housing, assistance in applying for government support programs, and education in household financial management, parenting skills, nutrition and cooking, and conflict resolution.
What dream is the ministry pursuing?
NUMAS Haus is working to eliminate homelessness among single women and children in this part of rural Minnesota. We know that this means providing much more than overnight shelter. NUMAS Haus works to transform lives through education, counseling, and by helping its clients develop strong, healthy relationships. Many of our clients have no support network to help them through difficult circumstances. NUMAS Haus works with its clients to help them build a new network with members of the community who serve as strong role models, mentors, and friends.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
First UMC offers a monthly free breakfast as part of its ministry to the community of New Ulm, MN. Some NUMAS Haus residents have volunteered as servers for this breakfast, working alongside church members to provide a free meal to others. “We want to give back. You saved our lives,” one client told me. One of my favorite memories is from last Christmas Eve. One of the residents had come early to our candlelight Communion service, but I noticed that she disappeared just before worship began. Just as we were beginning the service, she reappeared, bringing all the other residents with her! I cannot describe the look on each of their faces as they received Communion that night.
What have your neighbors (those utilizing services) taught you in doing this work?
Every person’s story is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping families establish a safe, permanent home of their own. Listening well and helping each client set goals that are both attainable and sustainable is the key to helping them never become unhoused again.
What challenges have you encountered, and how have you adapted?
Clients can stay at NUMAS Haus for up to 90 days, as they complete their plan for finding new housing and being able to maintain it. Clients come to us with a long list of needs. The reasons they became unhoused are complex and almost always require some kind of mental or emotional healing before they can begin the process of rebuilding their lives. Ninety days is not enough time. We have developed a case management process to follow up with clients for up to two years after they move from NUMAS Haus into sustainable housing. This case management has become our strongest tool in preventing our clients from becoming unhoused again.
What advice would you give to others who are working to be in ministry with?
Listen well. Look for each person’s gifts and encourage them to use those gifts. Be willing to receive as much as you give. It’s basic discipleship, really. As we enter into relationships with the people God loves and values, we teach and encourage one another.
How can people contact you if your ministry inspires them?