When Park Place UMC merged with Morton Memorial UMC in Clarksville to become Park Memorial UMC in 2010, the sale of properties left a sum of money. The leadership set it aside “to do something good for God someday with it,” said Pastor Jim Moon.
“Why do you continue to pray about this when you’re the answer to this prayer?” Pastor Jim heard these words when he was praying in the summer of 2019 for people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
A few weeks later, Pastor Jim got a call from the local homeless shelter director, who was upset and facing mounting debt. The health department was going to close their shelter because of an unpaid sewer bill.
Pastor Jim immediately thought of his church and called the board, which unanimously voted to offer to purchase the struggling shelter. Park Memorial paid the shelter’s debts and took over the shelter in November 2019. They named the shelter, “.”
The building was dilapidated and in desperate need of being repair. Park Memorial began tackling each problem, addressing the precarious structure, roof, bugs, rodents, and more, one by one.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
The shelter became a quarantine shelter for homeless individuals who couldn’t find a place to quarantine. Individuals received medical supervision from a team of nurses and doctors while they experienced symptoms and recovered from COVID-19. They served 786 people before the quarantine shelter ended in June 2021.
The shelter received a $1.1 million dollar grant to do this work. A portion of those resources enabled them to renovate the building to redistribute space to more effectively serve those in need.
Since then, the shelter has been fully functional. In addition to Pastor Jim, Catalyst staff include an executive director, a case manager, intake specialists, chefs, maintenance staff, and more. The shelter usually houses around 75 people daily but has the capacity for 120.
Catalyst approaches the challenge of homelessness with three programs: emergency housing program, housing permanency program, and a life skills program. All three work together to move someone from crisis into stability. Since 2020, they have moved over 380 people into housing.
Crisis is usually what brings folks to Catalyst seeking emergency housing. Some come to Catalyst after house fires or because of domestic violence. Others aren’t able to cover their bills (for varying reasons). “I have learned that the circumstances of homelessness are as diverse as the faces that we see,” said Pastor Jim.
Pastor Jim’s goal is to build a relationship with people experiencing homelessness. Catalyst maintains relationships with those who have been through their program and moved into stable housing, approximately 400 people at present.
Through these relationships, many people who have come through Catalyst have gotten connected to Park Memorial UMC.
“The church became a place where they found grace in their greatest time of need. They built a relationship with me, but then they go to church, and the people at church love them. The people at church gave them care and kindness which gets them connected. Even through COVID, a lot of the folks who we’ve moved into permanent housing accounted for a great percentage of our church attendance. They’re not going to give up the place that gave them connection,” said Pastor Jim.
Through the years, God has moved the hearts of Park Memorial UMC’s congregation to care for those in need.
“Park Memorial is known in the community as the church that serves the homeless. That’s who we are now. It happened when folks in the pews began to build relationships with folks on the street. Then the walls came down, and it opened up a place where all who are disciples of Jesus could minister.”
Catalyst is truly a call from God for Park Memorial and a reminder of Christ’s call to not just love someone in word, but to really love them through deeds.
Pastor Jim shared, “If I love Jesus, I have to love the people that He loves. I cannot love the people I love from behind a closed door in my home, I have to open the door to go outside. I have to look around and find them. If Jesus were physically here, where would He be? Those are the places we want to be, and the people we want to be with. Our communities have needs, and God is calling us to fill them.“