Mission House attends to homeless

The large Victorian home located outside of campus behind Dominos was purchased in 2016 by Janice Gottschalk, creator and owner of Mission House. After renovations, the house now accepts guests who are homeless or in transition from one living situation to another.

Gottschalk before purchasing Mission House coordinated Erin’s Inside/Out Cafe, a local cafe that provides meals to the community, when she noticed the state of those in attendance.

“My initial reason for doing this was because, when I was the coordinator of Erin’s Inside/Out Cafe at the First United Methodist Church, I encountered three or four homeless people of various ages and situations,” Gottschalk said. “One lady I actually took into my house and my daughters reminded me later that that wasn’t a very safe thing to do.”

Gottschalk’s home, after her children moved away and her husband passed in 2015, had some extra room.

“I thought I would help her find a place to live and that for the meantime she could live in one of my spare bedrooms,” Gottschalk said. “She did find a place and so I thought, well I can’t do that again.”

That’s when her vision for Mission House materialized.

To get it up and running took ample time and effort, she said. Renovations were not complete until 2018.

“I’ve replaced the roof and the windows, I’ve done repairs inside and improved the apartment over the garage. It’s been a very busy four years for me,” she said. “A lot of the financial managing has been coming out of my pocket.”

The Green County Memorial Hospital Foundation has been providing money for house’s utilities, which is a great relief, said Gottschalk.

Mission House offers business rooms downstairs for meetings at no charge, as long as participants are meeting for the betterment of the town, county or state.

There are three rooms upstairs and another large room filled with beds and cots for sleeping.

The first occupants of the home were a group of 22 children from Africa in the Amani Children’s Choir.

“They came to the U.S. to raise funds for their schools, and they were associated with one of our church members,” she said. “They were my first guests, and I worried that the old creaky stairs wouldn’t hold up, but they did.”

Soon after, she began obtaining references from caseworkers and from Greene County Human Services to fill Mission House. It didn’t go exactly as planned, however.

“I used them as a screening entity thinking that I would only get people that were simply homeless, but as time went along I found out I was getting drug-users, which wasn’t part of my mission,” she said. 

As fear developed that the home could be jeopardized, Gottschalk formed a solution. 

“I was taking people within a couple of hours of hearing that they were homeless and in need,” she said. “By the end of 2018, I said, this has to change, what if they try to light something up and they burn the house down?”

Gottschalk and the board of directors implemented an application process that could be used for a background check, as well as a mandatory drug test.

Another aspect of Gottschalk’s role was helping the unemployed get to job interviews and help them place applications to the Housing Authority.

“I tried to be their cheerleader for whatever they were missing in their lives,” she said.

Mission House has also been instrumental in hosting Ten Thousand Villages, an organization that goes to third world countries and works with local artisans to boost their economy, as well as the Kairos ministry from Pittsburgh that does prison ministry work in Greene County.

Gottschalk has helped over 100 homeless people in the last three years that Mission House has been operating, but she knows she can’t do it forever.

“I’m 71 and my joints are giving me problems. I’ve had both hips replaced and just got my left hip replaced a second time so stairs are an issue, and there’s a lot of stairs,” Gottschalk said.

Gottschalk and the board of directors will make the final call this month on the future of the ministry, but once the current guests move out she plans on selling the home come 2020.

“I’m ready to wind down, I would love for somebody else to take over the ministry and move it to a new location,” she said. “I’m sending out the word that I’m winding down. It’s been worthwhile. It’s been a teaching experience.”