From Homeless Shelter to Volunteer

KenMary Beth Young, Project Home Senior Site Coordinator, chatting with Ken Phipps, Project Home Volunteer, at the family picnic he organized at New Life Presbyterian Church.

By Kristin Vanevenhoven, Communications Specialist

Meet Ken Phipps, Project Home Volunteer

Ken Phipps, a member at New Life Presbyterian Church in Roseville, has been an active volunteer at his church. Last year he was asked to become an overnight shelter volunteer for Project Home.

Project Home, a program of Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul, provides emergency shelter space and volunteer support for Ramsey County families facing homelessness. Each month, two different area faith communities host 20 emergency shelter beds for families in need. Ken volunteered during the month Project Home was hosted at his church.

Ken brings a very unique volunteer experience, knowing firsthand what it is like to be in shelter. “I know what it is like being homeless, and it is not fun. I was homeless for 2 years, until I got a place of my own.”

Family picnic organized by Ken Phipps.

Family picnic organized by Ken Phipps.

This is Ken’s second year volunteering with Project Home. In addition to being an overnight shelter volunteer, this summer he organized a picnic for the families. He wanted to plan something fun for them. Ken mentions, “being homeless is hard enough, but dealing with a family is especially hard.”

“It’s hard to find a job in shelter,” added Ken. “I spent one year, and filled out 227 job applications, and I didn’t get a call back from one of them, not a one! If it was not for the temp service, I would not have had any income coming in.”

He is thankful for finally getting a job right before he left the shelter. “It’s not the greatest job in the world, but it’s a job. I am at minimum wage but I am allowed to get overtime occasionally which is good.”

Ken helps others whenever he can. “I am doing pretty good now,” he says. “No complaints.”

In addition to volunteering, he makes donations to Project Home families. “With my overtime I can afford it. I also collect aluminum cans and copper to make extra money. And anything I get from that I donate it.”

Young shelter guest taking a rest at the picnic.

Young shelter guest taking a rest at the picnic.

Even before he was in shelter, if a friend or neighbor needed something, he would give it to them. All he would ask of them is to pay it forward.

Ken recalls, “I have always been that way. Just the other day I was at the store, and there was a girl behind me. She had a glass of pop and a sandwich. I told the cashier to pay for hers too. Just before I left, the girl got up to the register, and the lady told the girl, ‘Well yours is paid for, here’s your change.’ The girl looked at her and looked at me, and the girl just started crying.”

“And I did that for her,” added Ken.

If you would like to learn more about Project Home, become a volunteer, or make a donation, please contact:

Sara Liegl
Director, Project Home