Alum provides hope (and a home) for homeless
Editor’s note: Reprinted from the August 2021 issue of GCU Magazine. To read the digital version, click here.
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
Something big is going on in McPherson, Kansas, in the form of 10 tiny cottages.
“I really believe this is God’s project. He’s the one moving this forward,” Chris Goodson, a real estate appraiser and 2019 Grand Canyon University online graduate, said of the two bedroom, one-bath, 440-square-foot cottages that will serve as a 90-day emergency shelter for homeless families.
Goodson got the idea and hammered out the details as part of her GCU master’s program in Organizational Leadership and Entrepreneurship.
“We had to have a project of some sort, and this is what I chose,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think the ground would have been broken without the help of the master’s program. “It just gave me all the tools I needed,” from sharpening her social media skills to giving her the confidence to speak in public.
Construction started in June on Oak Harbor Cottages, a project of the McPherson Housing Coalition. She founded the nonprofit in 2008 to address the lack of affordable housing in McPherson, a small town of 13,000 that has an 1880s-era, brick opera house and, of course, a Main Street.
“Where I live, it’s a beautiful town, but it’s very expensive to live here,” said Goodson, who is president of her own company, Chris Goodson Appraisal Service, in addition to serving as the coalition’s executive director. “We felt like everybody deserved a place to live no matter what their income level.”
She speaks passionately about the uniqueness of the cottages, a project that goes one step further in addressing homelessness. The coalition learned that “without social services, affordable housing doesn’t always work” in solving the problem.
The nonprofit, which has been working for six years with the Emergency Solutions Grant Program for homeless prevention and rapid rehousing, discovered that some families, even after moving into homes, weren’t doing as well as others. So, families who move into those 10 tiny cottages will be connected to resources on-site, from legal help to mental services and counseling.
“The cool part about this is our community has come around us,” she said. Donors have contributed everything from labor to siding, electrical work and plumbing.
Looking at those cottages go up this summer, after all the challenges of a global pandemic that hit so many families so hard, Goodson feels a light shining on her and her community – a light that got its spark at GCU.
“I don’t know if a lot of people get to do their project and then make it come to life afterward,” she said. But she feels lucky to be one of those people who has.
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.
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