Take a housing shortage, add the high cost of existing housing, and it is no surprise that the number of homeless people in San Diego County is on the rise. Meridian Baptist Church, however, came up with a creative solution to offer homeless women a respite.
Located in El Cajon, California, Meridian Baptist had some land they weren’t using, so Senior Pastor Rolland Slade suggested building “sleeping cabins,” 96 square feet of livable space that doesn’t have a permanent foundation or running water but does have electricity. The idea was to provide a place of solace for women with children so that they can rest and refocus before transitioning to permanent supportive housing or long-term transitional housing.
Slade reached out to city officials, navigating the proper channels to handle zoning issues and other details. Thankfully, all parties involved embraced his vision. In April 2019, the church partnered with builder Amikas and social services provider Home Start to build six emergency sleeping cabins for women with young children.
“We want them to come here to rest for a bit before they have to start making decisions that will impact their lives,” says Slade, who hopes that other area churches will follow suit.
“If 100 of the 1,700 faith community properties in San Diego County would build six emergency sleeping cabins, that would provide 600 cabins,” he says. “That would impact the homeless population in the county.”
Meridian Baptist’s six-cabin village, which features calming landscaping, has a raised garden bed to grow vegetables. Residents have access to the church’s kitchen in the fellowship hall as well as a shower trailer.
Slade thinks of the homelessness issue through the lens of the four men who brought the paralytic to Jesus in Mark 3:11 by lowering him through the roof.
“We don’t know their names. We just know that what was most important to them was getting their friend in front of Jesus,” says Slade. “I think that’s what we’re doing.”