Building a fresh start
LaGRANGE — Jon Hupp did not plan to stay in LaGrange very long.
The 42-year-old drifter from Ohio had been in and out of trouble — divorced in 2014, Hupp said he struggled with drug addiction, was sentenced to prison, had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, was out of work and now homeless.
Hupp and his friend were passing through the city last spring, looking for a temporary place to stay.
The duo heard about the Emmaus Shelter and, for a brief time, found a bed to lay their heads at night. That is where Hupp met Emmaus Executive Director Jessica David who offered him a warm place to stay if he promised to work hard.
Hupp said the day he was scheduled to leave LaGrange, David asked him to stick around for awhile and continue to help out at the day center. That was more than five months ago, and Hupp is still here.
In fact, he is now the house manager of the new men’s transitional center located in the Matthews Building off Hill Street. It is a place for the homeless to get back on their feet. It is similar to the women’s home run by the Emmaus Shelter in LaGrange, except this one is strictly for males.
“The men that we’re taking care of now, they’re fathers and sons and they’re men at work,” said David. “They all get up in the morning and go to work. We have a busy productive day center for men ready to work. We are not a rehab center.”
Hupp said since coming to the Emmaus organization, he has noticed he relies less on his prescription medications and more on working hard and creating lasting relationships with people and God.
“Slowly I’ve stopped worrying about the things I used to, about being homeless … I don’t have anxiety,” he explained. “Jessica (David) taught me patience and how to deal with things in my life. I started helping out and slowly gained their trust … them putting their faith and trust in me helps.”
“The cool thing is God gave us some men who were able to mature very quickly into leadership positions,” David said. “We knew the Matthews Building was not going to be a possibility without a house manager, and that manager is Mr. Hupp.”
Hupp’s responsibilities include taking care of any maintenance problems, shopping for groceries to stock the pantries of both the Matthews Building and the women’s shelter, cleaning the facility plus mediating any issues that may arise among the men who live there.
“It’s scary at times,” Hupp admitted. “It’s still so new to me. It (the program) is still a work in progress even to myself. It is a day to day process dealing with all the problems and opportunities that come up … I still worry that something is going to happen, but then I remember that I have a place to stay that’s out of the cold, out of the heat, out of the weather.”
Hupp said seven men now call the Matthews Building home. For some, this is the first time in months they have had a stable roof over their head and shelter from the elements.
The facility has 12 bedrooms, most of which are currently undergoing renovations as part of the “Adopt-A-Room” project. David said Torrance Construction has joined the project and even hired an architect to make sure the roof of the facility is secure. Interface donated new carpet to be placed throughout the building, she noted.
Just like the changes to the building, Hupp said the transitional center is a symbol of a fresh start and new beginnings in his life.
“It does give me more independence,” he explained. Being house manager “makes me feel like a productive member of society and not a homeless person. I have security. I have a family. That’s something else I’ve struggled with my whole life … but everyone here makes me feel like a brother or son or an uncle — even the kids call me ‘Uncle Jon.’”
Hupp said he plans on sticking around for awhile. For once in his life, the 42 year old believes he is exactly where he is meant to be.
“I’m thankful every day,” he said. “These people (Emmaus Shelter) go out of their way everyday to make people feel wanted, needed and have hope, as long as we work for it … to have all this positivity in my life is literally the best thing that could have happened to me.”