Skip to site content

Ministry Helps Refugees, Immigrants Find Long-Term Housing

image_pdfimage_print

Welcome House Raleigh is a temporary housing ministry for refugees and immigrants seeking a long-term housing solution modeled on the Matthew Houses in Canada.

Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, it is a safe home supported by a team of vetted volunteers who offer hospitality, settlement assistance and assimilation bridges into the local community.

Welcome House Raleigh is a collaborative partnership between the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) of North Carolina, refugee agencies and partnering churches, which support the client-agency relationship.

Guests are clients of the partner agency, which provides safe and loving space for individuals and families in transition to permanent housing.

Typically, guests live together for up to six weeks while awaiting the long-term affordable housing search by the partner agency.

When permanent housing becomes available, we work together to furnish it, including stocking the kitchen with culturally appropriate groceries at move-in.

Finally, we seek to help orient our new friends as they discover their new American neighborhood.

Our main goal is to share the love of God in Christ Jesus through the ministries of hospitality and friendship.

Volunteers from local churches and civic organizations are vital. These special neighbors are our immigrant guests’ first American friends.

Prayerfully and intentionally, that friendship continues to grow in the grace and love of God.

Welcome House is a five-bedroom, three full bathroom house owned by Crabtree Valley Baptist Church, which has bed space for 12 persons.

It is not zoned as a shelter but is a guesthouse of Crabtree Valley Baptist. No sign identifies the ministry. All guests are referrals from local agency partners, churches and mosques.

The current location is the third since beginning in November 2015. We have hosted over 350 guests at Welcome House to date.

The first location of Welcome House was a four-bedroom, four-bath apartment near North Carolina State University.

We paid the first and last month’s rent, turned on the utilities, furnished it and provided the hospitality volunteer program as a partner to a local refugee agency. The refugee agency paid the rent.

We found tremendous financial support and volunteer response from local churches and civic groups, which soon birthed two new models of Welcome House by CBF of North Carolina churches who owned houses.

Welcome House relocated to a resettlement apartment community in northern Raleigh the following spring (2016), placing the ministry in the neighborhood of previously resettled refugee families.

In many cases, Welcome House guests moved into apartments in that same neighborhood.

This meant that refugee neighbors, who understood well our guests’ situation and, in most cases, spoke the same languages, welcomed guests of Welcome House.

Children could be enrolled in school quickly, and adults could learn to use the bus system from neighbors.

The ministry closed in February 2017 because of a drastic reduction in arrivals based on the Trump administration’s confusing policies for refugees and immigrants.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reluctantly ended the partnership because they could not justify paying rent on an apartment that was not in use.

Welcome House eventually moved to the Smithdale Apartments as a community English as a Second Language program.

Soon thereafter, partner refugee agencies joined the neighborhood outreach, providing volunteers and financial support to help cover the rent and utility costs.

In January 2017, Crabtree Valley Baptist began discussions with us about an unused three-bedroom, two-bathroom house they owned, and the church voted unanimously in July 2017 to partner with us to reopen Welcome House on their property.

Six weeks and a few renovations later, the house received its first family, a Special Immigrant Visa Holder US/Iraqi Military Advisor family of four.

In January 2018, a second phase of renovation was carried out with mostly skilled volunteers and a general contractor donating oversight for permitting.

Completed in June, this provided two additional bedrooms, the largest meeting space, a laundry, storage space and a third full bathroom.

Shaun and Joy Price and their four children joined our ministry becoming the first “in house” hosts, providing oversight of the house for matters of safety, security, maintenance, guest relations and volunteer services.

With the Prices’ help, the vision we had from our time serving with Canadian Christians in the Matthew House Model was fully implemented.

The Prices were commissioned as missionaries to Wales by a sister denomination in January 2019.

One week later, Rod and Tori Rahimizadeh joined the Welcome House as our second hosts, with Chris West becoming the third host in June 2019.

Beyond the house owned by Crabtree Valley Baptist, our ministry now includes three apartments we rent in three neighborhoods with majority refugee and immigrant populations.

From these apartments, we provide English as a Second Language classes, preschool readiness classes, after-school homework helps, literacy and community enrichment.

During the summer and on weekends, year-round day camps are provided for school-age children and teens.

This model has expanded across North Carolina, leading to six additional ministries networking together as the Welcome House Community Network:

  • Welcome House Wilmington (Winter Park Baptist Church)
  • Welcome House Fayetteville (Snyder Memorial Baptist Church)
  • Hope House Durham (Hope Valley Baptist Church)
  • Hospitality House Durham (Temple Baptist Church)
  • Welcome House Chapel Hill (Community Church of Chapel Hill)
  • Welcome House Winston-Salem (College Park Baptist Church)

A Welcome House was launched in Knoxville, Tennessee, as a collaboration of churches working closely with Tennessee CBF under the direction of Cindy Hood. It became a nonprofit in August 2019.

The experiences of some Welcome House Raleigh guests have been captured in several Cooperative Baptist Fellowship video productions, which are available here, here and here.

Kim and Marc Wyatt

Kim and Marc Wyatt are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, an eight-county region that wraps the capital city of Raleigh.