Pay it Forward founder wants to convert Elks Lodge into ‘transitional housing’

Kimberly Bevel has yet to figure out the details of how it will work, but she wants to create a hub with services and transitional housing to help people who are homeless or struggling with poverty.

The first step is to buy the Elks Lodge building at 633 Park St, she said.

Bevel runs Pay It Forward…One Blessing at a Time, which has a storefront on Main Street and a warehouse on Williams Street.

Everything in the store is free and both buildings are staffed by about 55 volunteers.

Bevel expects it will take about 30 more volunteers to run the program she wants to create in the new building.

“It will be transitional housing, classes, those kinds of things – a community event center to help the homeless or families in the crisis of poverty,” Bevel said.

Bevel is part of a coalition that was formed after Dr. Robert Marbut’s presentation on homelessness at the Summit on Poverty in October.

She said she has talked with other members of the group and with other community leaders about working together.

Bevel has not managed this type of program before and does not yet have a plan in place to facilitate the  project but says she is still moving forward.

“I’m one of those people, just grab the bull by the horns and go,” Bevel said. “Let’s just do it.  We can sit around and talk about it all day long, but let’s show some action. We may fall flat on our face, then have to redo the whole plan, but let’s get started.”

She has filed paperwork to establish Pay It Forward One Blessing at a Time as a nonprofit.

Bevel works three jobs, she said, to keep the current two operations running.

She does bookkeeping, cleans houses and deals cards.

“And then I’m here,” Bevel said of Pay It Forward.

The Elks building would cost $950,000 and necessary repairs will be an additional $300,000, she said.

“You can see why the project is taking a little longer than just run down and write a check,” Bevel said.

The $1.25 million will come from an investor Bevel declined to name.

When asked if he was someone she works for, she responded, “I wouldn’t say I work for him. I would say I work with him.”

She said the man owns more than one business and will hold title in one of his businesses’ names.

The plan is still to have the building by end of the year, but it likely won’t open until April, Bevel said.

Once the building is purchased, she said she will move on in the process of getting permits for the type of facility she envisions.

While she foresees the new facility being run by volunteers, Bevel estimates it will cost $50,000 a year to keep it functioning.

“I will apply for grants and hopefully the community support will come into play, you know, because once they see a project working, they’re more on board to be willing to help,” Bevel said.

Because the building will have beds and showers, volunteers will need to have background checks and training, she said, though she was not sure what kind of training would be implemented.

“I’ll have to talk to other nonprofits,” Bevel said.

They may implement some of the rules that are in place at the warming shelter, she added.

“This is all going to be a work in progress for the first couple of years until we really get a solid foundation of nonprofits together,” Bevel said.

Getting nonprofits to work together and come up with one mission statement is key, as is community support, she said.

“There’s going to be members of the community that aren’t going to like the fact that you’re opening transitional housing because they’re going to think it’s shelter,” Bevel said. “It’s not a shelter.”

One transitional shelter she knows of in Washington had separate units for families and individuals.

“You can’t do a background check on everybody who comes into transitional housing,” Bevel said. “So you need to be very cautious. Also, I liked the fact that the chores are all done by the people in transitional housing you know.”

She wants to offer classes for life skills, such as balancing a check book, how to open a savings account and how to do routine chores, such as vacuuming and washing dishes.

“The goal here is to help families in the crisis of poverty with change to better their lives,” Bevel said. “It can be individuals.”

Bevel said she has experience overcoming these challenges. She has six children, went through a bad divorce, and her husband left her the same year her mother died.

She faced varying challenges of poverty, homelessness and joblessness for about six years after her children were grown.

She said she promised the Lord if He brought her family out of the struggle, she would give back everything she could for the rest of her life.

“The one thing I always want people to know – people always say ‘Oh, you’re amazing for doing this,’ and I just want them to know, I’m just one person doing what everybody else should be doing,” Bevel said. “Maybe not on this scale, but if you have five shirts, it doesn’t hurt to give one of them to somebody.”