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Starting fresh

One year later, Jubilee Transition Home gives homeless men the chance to get off the streets
by: Jaime Valdez PROVIDING A HOME — Gerry Pruyn sits in the living room of Jubilee Transition Home. For the past year Pruyn and others have taken homeless men off the street and given them a warm, safe place to live and get their lives back together.

The Jubilee Transition Home recently celebrated its first birthday.

That may not seem like much, but it's a big step for the organization, which provides the area's homeless men the chance to get off the streets and back to work.

When Jubilee first started work in late 2009 nobody would rent to it.

'I spent two-and-a-half months on the phone every day,' said Gerry Pruyn, who serves on the transition home's board of directors. 'I called every property manager in Tigard, every rental house in Tigard, and when I brought up the word 'homeless,' people would hang up on me. They'd say, 'Not in our neighborhood.' It got to be very frustrating.'

Today six men stay in the Jubilee house in a quiet neighborhood off Scholls Ferry Road in Tigard

The men can stay in the home for up to 18 months. Each is required to hold down a job and pay rent.

The house is furnished with donated items from a recent garage sale. A painting of Jesus hangs on the living room wall.

'There aren't people coming and going here. It's not a shelter. 'You'd never know that this home was even here.'

Fellow board member George La Du agreed.

'We're not a shelter,' he said. 'We're a home.'

Good neighbors

The sense of home helped to sway neighbor concerns, La Du said.

Many of the neighbors had reservations about having a home for homeless men - some of whom have felony convictions - in their neighborhood, but many have become supporters of the home.

'The neighbors on both sides of us have said that we're the best neighbors they have ever had here,' said Chris Miles, the home's housing manager.

The men meet weekly with Pruyn for Bible study and to discuss prospects and goals.

A faith-based organization, Jubilee is sponsored by donations from area churches and local businesses.

For Daniel Lechuga, who has lived in the home for about a year, the house has helped him to get his life back.

A transplant from California, Lechuga had no place to go after he got divorced. He slept on the streets for months. He said he would sometimes ride the bus or MAX just to get out of the cold.

'The most important thing for me was the ability to have a place to go. That safety is comforting - it's soothing. You know that you have a place to relax that is warm.'

Since living at the house, Lechuga has been able to find a job at a counseling center and purchase a car.

'God has been involved in this whole process,' he said.

The home isn't a perfect fit for everyone. Some men have been kicked out for going back to drugs or alcohol, or not obeying the strict house rules.

'We look at this as an opportunity for the guys who really want to work hard,' Pruyn said. 'But the relationships they get while they are here change their lives. All the guys have been success stories one way or another. Their lives were changed, whether it was for a week or a lifetime.'

Like most of the men who move into the home, Lechuga didn't have a job and wasn't able to pay the monthly rent.

'When I heard I would have to pay rent, that burst the bubble for me. It was like 'pow!' When you don't have any money, it's hard to consider even spending $10 or $15,' he said.

Local churches paid Lechuga's rent for the first few months until he was able to find a job.

'That was so cool,' he said.

More than anything else, jobs are the most difficult thing to come by at the house, Pruyn said.

'When we first opened, we thought we'd have everybody working within the first two months and we'd only stop in once in a while,' Pruyn said. 'We were a bit naïve.'

Today all but one of the residents have steady jobs.

'That's a big change compared to a couple of months ago,' Pruyn said. 'We only had a couple of the guys working.'

Jubilee has computers set up for residents to apply for jobs, which, Lechuga said, was all but impossible when living on the streets.

'So many places you have to fill out an application online,' he said.

La Du and Pruyn hope to open a second home - for homeless women - in the future.

'I heard from eight or nine women in one day saying that there was just nothing like us out in the Tualatin area for women,' Pruyn said. 'I'd love to have a home for women someday.'

Anyone wanting more information about Jubilee Transition Home can visit jubileeth.wordpress.com.