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New house offers hope to the homeless, elderly

Bert Hunt and Mary Nichol talk on the couch at House of Hope in Prescott Valley Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019.  (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Bert Hunt and Mary Nichol talk on the couch at House of Hope in Prescott Valley Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

For more than two years, Prescott financier Bert Hunt was on the hunt for a safe haven where he and other faith-based humanitarians could care for financially strapped, or homeless, elderly men and women.

The pending sale of the Prescott Manor on West Gurley Street that for some three decades offered a similar affordable, independent-living option added fury to the search.

In April, the prayers of Hunt and his fellow volunteers to find suitable real estate were answered. Hunt is on the board of directors for H10 Ministries in Phoenix. The nonprofit ministry was started in 2006 to serve the Valley’s homeless population.

They were able to find a handicap-accessible, unfurnished duplex in Prescott Valley suitable to house up to nine individuals – the five remaining Prescott Manor clients were the first occupants. With referrals from other agencies, four months later, the house is fully occupied, furnished through donations with 24-hour staffing from a mix of four part-time paid staff and other ministry volunteers.

Hunt and his loyal supporters are already seeking a second such home as they continue to receive calls from agencies looking for affordable places for their clients, or patients, to live out their twilight years.

Known as The House of Hope 316 – the 316 references the Biblical verse in the Gospel of John – the six-bedroom, three-bath duplex with two kitchens, living rooms and a congregate dining area is located in a family neighborhood. All of the residents who are aged between 60 and 80 are treated as a family, with the staff providing daily meals, laundry and sharing the household chores.

The home is not suitable, or licensed, for those who require skilled nursing care, or therapeutic rehabilitation. It can, however, accommodate those who may at some time be eligible for hospice care.

The routine cost, with all meals and laundry, for a semi-private room is $1,000 a month. Those costs, though, are adjusted based on a client’s ability to pay, Hunt explained.

The House of Hope 316 is an outreach of H10 Ministries, with Hunt serving as its director. The house manager is Craig Kiggens; with Sally VanderPloeg serving as the daytime supervisor. Hunts’ wife, Stephanie, is deemed by all as a “key” player, whether she is supplying groceries, answering a household necessity or offering a friendly ear to a client.

“We’re not giving them just a bed or a meal, but making them part of a family where they are loved by God and offered hope,” said Hunt, who serves as the director.

THE CALL

Hunt’s quest to open such a home started when he was introduced to an 84-year-old man who once was a sparring partner for the heavyweight boxing legend Rocky Marciano. Hunt was eating a meal at the Wendy’s Restaurant on Glassford Hill Road. The other man was sleeping in a car in the back parking lot.

Rallying help from some fellow Christians in the community, Hunt managed to find his new friend a home at the Prescott Manor.

From visits and volunteer work at the manor, Hunt saw the importance of their mission.

Once he learned the manor was slated to close, Hunt felt called to fill the gap.

“I think Bert’s a special guy. He’s a man of faith, and his message just connected with me,” said Kiggens, a member of Canyon Bible Church in Prescott. “We decided I could try and lighten his load.”

“He (Kiggens) was the answer to prayer,” Hunt said of his need for a faithful sidekick in this endeavor.

Though there are other agencies offering transitional care to homeless families, and working to build housing to end homelessness for those now in shelter, Hunt and Kiggens agreed there is nothing to serve the elderly with no family or resources beyond a monthly Social Security check.

“What is happening here is really just a result of prayer and the good people God brought to us,” Hunt declared.

A PLACE TO CALL HOME

Sitting on a couch in the air-conditioned living room, Mary Nichol, 65, said she has called The House of Hope 316 her home for the last two months. Her former rental was sold and she had nowhere else to go. A friend introduced her to this ministry.

“This is a welcoming place,” Nichol said. “Everyone here is happy and everyone gets along very well.

“I love it here.”

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.

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