The homeless shelter in Laurel, Mississippi is getting a high-profile upgrade from people who know the meaning of a real home.
This week, guests at the Salvation Army shelter saw rooms renovated by Ben and Erin Napier, stars of HGTV’s hugely popular ‘Home Town’ series, where the building and decorating duo make dilapidated homes shine .
“Many of our clients have become accustomed to being pushed back and rejected by society,” Capt. Jason McMullin, army commander or senior pastor at Laurel, said via email. “However, by revitalizing our refuge, the Napiers have helped us change that narrative and restore peace and hope to our neighbors who come through our doors for generations to come.” Mr. McMullin works at Laurel with his wife Keisha.
The Napiers, members of a United Methodist Church congregation in Laurel where Ben teaches Sunday School, first partnered with the evangelical Christian church and social services organization in 2021, during the Christmas fundraising season, when the group’s familiar kettles are seen across the country.
As they learned more about the military, which has operated a shelter in Laurel since 1939 and provided emergency shelter and transitional housing to 7,779,900 people nationwide in 2021, Napier said that the couple wanted to do more.
“When we think of the Salvation Army, everyone thinks of holidays, they think of bells or kettles, but it’s a year-round thing,” he said in a video interview before. the start of the rehabilitation project. He added that the couple’s visit to Laurel Institution “was the first time we’ve been to a Salvation Army shelter and visited it. It’s amazing the amount of work they do.
Ms Napier, the couple’s renowned design expert, said the military was doing “an excellent job of taking good care of people as they walked through” the shelter. She said she was impressed “to see that they have a dormitory for women and children and a small living room where they can try to have some normality while they are here. It meant a lot to me to see how well our local shelter is doing all day.
Mr Napier, who was a youth pastor for 10 years before turning to home improvement and becoming famous on television alongside his wife, said becoming parents – their children are 4 and 1 – has changed his view of the homeless.
“Before we had kids, maybe we weren’t connected,” he said. “But when you walk through the shelter and think of the children there, or you go to the children’s hospital, it’s hard to imagine your family being there and your children being there. So we wanted to help [and] refresh [the shelter].”
The couple didn’t blow up walls “or anything like that”, as is often seen on their TV show, Ms Napier said. Instead, she said, “I humanize a cinder block building where it doesn’t look like a dorm for kids, specifically, and I just find ways to make it look more like a house. “
She said the job involves “paint, pretty curtains [and] a small table and chairs for kids where they feel like it’s their size and not such a big and scary adult world. It’s a light update, but small things that will make it a bit smoother.
Mr Napier said he hoped shelter guests would ‘feel like someone cared’ after the renovations, while his wife offered a spiritual connection.
“The Salvation Army is really a second-chance ministry for people,” she said. “So I hope this place is a good first step towards that second chance.”
When the couple renovates an old house in Laurel for new owners, Mr Napier added: ‘We don’t always do the whole house, usually we do the hardest parts of the house and then it’s up to the owners to maintain it and move on. next step. With the Salvation Army, that’s it, that’s the first step for these people.