Do you know how many emergency homeless shelters there are in Gwinnett? Until this year, none. But that’s all changing and Home Repairs Ministry and about 100 teens from Perimeter Church are part of that change. Earlier this summer, from July 8-11, volunteers from Home Repairs Ministry and dozens of teens involved with Perimeter’s annual RUSH Conference (a yearly conference to empower student leaders) swarmed the Norcross facility that Matt Elder, Executive Director of HomeFirst Gwinnett, is turning into Gwinnett’s first homeless shelter and assessment center. 

group of teens working on exterior of home

“The student volunteers came to the Norcross facility for three days in a row to help us continue our transformation of the old John Wesley United Methodist Church,” Matt Elder said. “They rebuilt picnic tables for our outdoor eating area, cleaned out debris like trash and excess building supplies, did office demo inside, and started demolition of an old shed on our property, as well as did a large amount of weed eating and gardening throughout the entire facility.”

Home Repairs Executive Director Mark Wolfe and John Manderscheid led the project, with the help of Ron Nolz, David Schwartz, Harvey Anderson and Jim Hoben. For Elder, who had never worked with Home Repairs before, the entire experience was a success.

“It was incredible. The amount of work that we were able to get done in six hours each day was phenomenal. The team from Home Repairs was really focused on not just leading the kids but also showing them HOW to do the project, which I thought was really dynamic. They really wanted the teens to understand what we were going to do with the facility, that it was literally going to change people’s lives,” Elder said. 

teens drilling wood pieces together outside

“We had three different groups of kids each day so I was able to talk to them every day about what we were doing and what that would mean. I explained to them that homelesnsess doesn’t have a face, it doesn’t know race, age, etc and that it was almost guaranteed that they knew someone through church, school or sports who was dealing with homelessness. I had a number of kids during the project talk to me and say they didn’t realize that it wasn’t just the guy holding the sign on the interstate but that it was kids around them.”

According to Elder, the shelter will serve about 2,000 people per year and will have three bedrooms containing 20 beds for families and children and an assessment center with a health clinic, a Navigate Recovery mental health and substance abuse clinic, a community office space, two assessment offices and a director’s office. “I’m incredibly grateful and thankful for the work Home Repairs/RUSH did,” Elder said. “The only way we got as much done those three days as we did was because of their work ethic.”