Welcome House Community Network
Welcome House Raleigh (WHR) 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.
WHR is a collaborative partnership between the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC), refugee agencies and partner churches, which supports 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 the partner agency searches for long-term affordable housing.
When permanent housing becomes available, we work together to furnish it, including stocking the kitchen with culturally appropriate groceries. 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.
WHR is a five-bedroom, three-full-bathroom house owned by Crabtree Valley Baptist Church (CVBC), which has bed space for 12 persons. It is not zoned as a shelter but is a guest house of CVBC. There is no sign identifying the ministry. All guests are referrals from local agency partners, churches and mosques. The current location is the third since beginning November 2015. We have hosted over 350 guests at Welcome House to date.
The first location of WHR 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. This 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 CBFNC churches who owned houses. WHR relocated to a resettlement apartment community in North Raleigh the following spring (2016), placing the ministry in the neighborhood of previously resettled refugee families. In many cases, WHR guests moved into apartments in that same neighborhood. This meant refugee neighbors were able to welcome WHR guests who understood their situation and, on most cases, spoke the same language. Children were able to be enrolled in school quickly, and adults were able to 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 (USCRI) reluctantly ended the partnership because they could not justify paying rent on an apartment that was not in use. WHR eventually moved to the Smithdale Apartments as a community ESL 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, CVBC 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 WR 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 skilled volunteers and a general contractor donating oversight for permitting. Completed in June, this provided two additional bedrooms, the largest meeting space, a laundry, and 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, a second missionary couple joined the Welcome House as our hosts. Chris West, a Campbell University graduate joined us briefly during the summer of 2019. Our current Welcome House host is a former guest. Mujib is from the Middle East and is a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church Raleigh.
Beyond the house owned by CVBC, our ministry now includes three apartments we rent in three neighborhoods with majority refugee and immigrant populations. From these apartments, we provide classes for English as a second language and pre-school readiness as well as after-school homework helps, literacy and community enrichment. During the summer and on weekends year-round, day camps are provided for school-aged children and teens.
This model has expanded across North Carolina, leading to six additional ministries networking together as the Welcome House Community Network:
- WH Wilmington (Winter Park BC)
- WH Fayetteville (Snyder Memorial BC)
- Hope House Durham (Hope Valley BC)
- Hospitality House Durham (Temple BC)
- WH Chapel Hill (Community Church of Chapel Hill)
- WH Winston-Salem (College Park BC)
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 non-profit in August 2019. The experiences of several WHR guests have been captured by Cooperative Baptist Fellowship video production, which are available here, here and here.
To learn more, contact CBF Global Field Personnel Marc (910.632.4774) or Kim Wyatt (910.632.4181) or email them here.