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Local congregation seeks support to convert thrift store into homeless housing

  • 2 min to read
18 Hope Housing 1.tif

This one-time thrift store in Murphys is being converted into housing for people who face homelessness.

A former senior center thrift store in Murphys will soon serve another important role: housing someone who is at risk of homelessness.

With the help of community donors, Faith Lutheran Church in Murphys hopes to renovate the small building on Mitchler Street into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom residence by April 2021.

Once finished, the new home will be leased and managed by Sierra HOPE, a non-profit organization that offers a wide range of supportive services to at-risk residents of Calaveras, Tuolumne and Amador counties. The organization’s Supportive Housing Program provides housing and case management services for people who are homeless and unable to afford housing because of a physical or mental disability.

“Having participated on the Calaveras County Homeless Task Force and the 2019 point-in-time count of the homeless in our county, Faith and Mountain Ranch Lutheran Churches are intensely aware of the lack of affordable housing in our area,” Rev. Karen Johnson, who serves as pastor at both congregations, stated in a press release. “When the building on our property became vacant, we reached out to Sierra HOPE and determined that it could be renovated and used for their clients.”

Last year’s point-in-time count found an 81% increase from 2015 in overall homeless numbers, reporting more than 180 homeless individuals countywide – a one-night tally that likely falls short of the actual number of homeless people in the county.

The 2019 report listed a “critically low housing inventory” within the county as a contributing factor to increased homelessness.

According to Judy Earthman, congregation vice president at Faith Lutheran Church, the future residence in Murphys will nearly double the number of permanent supportive housing options in Calaveras County, with only three units currently managed by Sierra HOPE.

“It doesn’t look like much,” Earthman said of the little red building that was purchased by the church roughly 50 years ago and served as a meeting space for the congregation before being repurposed into a thrift store. “It’s small, but it’s a significant increase in the existing stock.”

Jerry Cadotte, executive director for Sierra HOPE, says that his organization is “quite excited” about the availability of a new Supportive Housing unit.

“At a time when the difficulty of finding affordable housing for the members of our community most in need is at an all-time high, this addition to our permanent supportive housing program will truly change lives in a positive and fundamental way,” he said.

Partially funded through pending grant proposals and a promise from the Calaveras Community Foundation to match all donations made by the congregation, the project will kick off next month once a contractor is hired.

Local businesses including Calaveras Lumber, Randy’s Door and Trim and Pinnell’s Carpet One have also pledged to provide materials at discounted prices or no cost.

However, $65,000 is still needed to complete the renovations and bring the building up to code, which will require extensive work including the installation of new windows, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, and altering the floorplan of the home.

To help raise funds, Faith Lutheran has started a GoFundMe campaign. Those seeking to contribute can also mail their donations directly to the church.

During the conclusion of the project in the spring, community members might also have the opportunity to help out with cleanup, painting and outdoor yard work.

“Our active members are all older, and we’re spread pretty thin,” Earthman said.

Any questions regarding donations or volunteering can be directed to the church by calling 728-2041.


Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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