Prepare a place for others: an Advent experience

Mississippi Cares International was founded by Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza within weeks of Katrina; the people who participated on this project worked very quietly, and without much public notice. They saw the need, and with many helping hands made it possible for the homeless to have a place to live, and a way to move from the woods to the indoors — from dire straits to dignity with self-respect. Oregon Place is a 55-unit apartment complex of fourteen four-plex units of two bedrooms and an on-site laundry. The spacious 3.2-acre site has a stand of mature oaks and a playground for the children.

There are only a few simple requirements to live in Oregon Place: there cannot be a warrant outstanding for one’s arrest; no drugs or alcohol can be used on site, or by the residents; job/skill training is required under a self- improvement plan developed by case workers; and the residents are helped with social, health, and educational needs. A tenant organization oversees the daily activities and safety of the residents. People have been given a helping hand, and a chance to help themselves. Eventually, perhaps, they will be able to extend help to others, themselves.