Allan Barsema’s Carpenter’s Place is transforming the lives of homeless across Rockford
Allan Barsema kept a room at his company as a meeting place for the area’s homeless. Eight people drifted in the first day itself for coffee and donuts. That was in the summer of 2000. Now, Allan Barsema shuttered his construction business and devoted his full time to what had become an outreach center, which he called Carpenter’s Place.
This began when, one afternoon, while working in the office of his construction company, he heard some loud thuds and Allan saw a homeless man screaming and throwing himself against the door. The man had become despondent, because, the neighborhood coffee shop that had allowed street people to hang out had recently closed. That was the moment when Allan Barsema thought of developing an innovative online system to coordinate services for the homeless throughout Rockford. Agencies can collaboratively guide homeless people as the individuals access various services, from health care to housing. The model has been adopted in various other communities in several states.
Serving the homeless gave me this inner drive that wouldn’t let go, I couldn’t go back to just construction. It was nothing of real value, when I could help someone that was of lasting value. Said Allan Barsema.
Allan himself was homeless once. His alcoholism had cost him his marriage, house, and real estate business. But at that time, his father helped him and took him to their house. With the support from his parents, Allan could rediscover himself. He started a construction company and remarried. But not everyone is as lucky as he was!
Hundreds of people visit Carpenter’s Place daily. Decorated with the artworks made by the guests, it offers storage lockers, showers, laundry services, social programs and the personalized management methods, to assess and address diverse areas of life. Guests must adhere to the plans they agree with their case managers. Plans may include performing community service to remain eligible for the extra services Carpenter’s Place provides, such as laundry and storage.
Last Year, Carpenter’s Place had helped 321 guests transitioned into housing, 114 secure jobs and 99 complete job training. Nearly 10,000 people have been helped at the Carpenter’s Place in its 10 years. Today, people like Debbie, give full credits to the Carpenter’s Place for giving her the foundation to move from the streets to the classroom. She had a long history of physical and sexual abuse, that shattered her self-esteem and drove her to a nervous breakdown. To take another example, a former truck driver is now studying business administration and working in a human resources office at a local college.
Nobody’s going to go hungry in Rockford. There are beds; there’s free medical help. As a community, we have all the resources we need to help someone. We just need to coordinate them more effectively.
Carpenter’s Place is completely managed by the Allan Barsema’s family. Barsema’s wife, Cathy, quit her job as a nurse and is now director of guest services for Carpenter’s Place. Barsema’s brother and sister-in-law, who supplied start-up funds, serve on the board, and his mother does volunteer office work. Now, more than two dozen social service agencies in the Rockford area are linked. Allan Barsema is one of the Purpose Prize winners of 2010.
Allan’s Carpenter’s place has helped to re-shape many lives. No one will be homeless anymore, nor will be abused, if every place around the world has a Carpenter’s place, like the one Allan Barsema has created.
image Credit: vimeo