'Love thy neighbor': homeless shelter residents 'adopt' nearby neighborhoods

by Carla Hinton Modified: July 15, 2014 at 11:00 am •  Published: July 14, 2014


photo - 
Jesus House residents Shane Harkins, 26; Theresa McIntyre, 35; and Josh Bibb, 26, take boxes of food and bottled water to a resident in one of the neighborhoods near the homeless shelter, 1335 W Sheridan.Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman
Jesus House residents Shane Harkins, 26; Theresa McIntyre, 35; and Josh Bibb, 26, take boxes of food and bottled water to a resident in one of the neighborhoods near the homeless shelter, 1335 W Sheridan.Photo by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman

As Leslie Stickney gives a box of food and bottled water to a man in the Orchard Park neighborhood, a big smile lights up her face.

“With my drug addiction, I stole, I lied, I did all that. This is just a way for me to give back,” she said.

Stickney, 42, is part of the Jesus House’s Adopt-A-Block initiative. The three-year-old project sends a group of people enrolled in the homeless shelter’s sobriety program out of the shelter on Saturday mornings and into the nearby neighborhoods of Orchard Park and Westlawn Gardens, formerly known as Mulligan Flats.

There in the heart of the neighborhoods, the Jesus House residents mow lawns for handicapped, elderly and impoverished families.

They give out emergency food and cases of bottled water.

They hand out box fans to residents living in homes with inadequate or no air-conditioning.

Rick Denny, the shelter’s executive director, said the initiative is the shelter’s way of being neighborly — fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31).”

“Loving our neighbors is what we are about, and when our people, many who were in crisis themselves, want to pitch in, our mission at Jesus House really comes to life, ” Denny said.

Stickney and others in the shelter’s Transitional Goals program are homeless and battling addiction.

Mike Bateman, the Jesus House’s outreach manager, said the program is designed to get them on the path to sobriety and recovery, employment and permanent housing.

Bateman said the Adopt-A-Block initiative has multiple benefits for the participants who volunteer for it.

He said each spring, the group goes door-to-door through the neighborhoods near the shelter to find out who might need and welcome assistance.

On a recent Saturday, the Adopt-A-Block volunteers mowed lawns, gave out food and water and also passed out sack lunches to more than a few people walking along the streets on a morning already sizzling with the searing July heat.

“For them, this is therapeutic to go out into the community and serve,” Bateman said of the volunteers.

“They are not focused on just them; they are focused on other things.”

Sometimes, homeless shelters don’t have the greatest reputation as good neighbors but this initiative hopes to change that.

Seeking sobriety, serving others

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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