“This is a homeless shelter,” says Jerome Burkett, “but our mission is to meet people where they are and share the love of Jesus Christ.” Burkett is the founder of The Refuge, a homeless shelter for men in Douglas. The shelter was established in October of 2013, and Jerome Burkett believes that the shelter meets a need in Douglas.
“Refuge” is defined as a “shelter or protection from danger” or “a place that provides shelter or protection.” Jerome Burkett feels that a small house, located off Madison Avenue, is a refuge. Over 20 individuals, according to Burkett, have passed through the door of The Refuge since October of 2013. Burkett feels that homelessness is a problem in the city of Douglas and that the individuals are in need of more than just room and board.
“The part I like most,” Jerome says, “is the exchange of the Gospel while the men are here at the shelter. The impact of the message that they receive will impact the rest of their lives.”
Jerome has been in involved in outreach ministries for over a decade, including Joshua’s House in Douglas and Christian Family Fellowship in Soperton. He was born in Douglas but spent most of his time growing up in Effingham County near Savannah. He realizes the importance of outreach ministries and wants to provide support and help for those who are suffering.
He says, “I realize that we are meeting a need for the city of Douglas, but more importantly we are providing a place for people to share the love of Jesus Christ and re-establish their lives.” He points out the main courses that are covered during an individual’s stay at The Refuge, “We have mandatory classes and lessons that provide tools for dealing with pride, rebellion, hate and bitterness.”
Burkett and his wife, Denise, embarked on a mission last year and the two are happy to announce that The Refuge is their first outreach ministry as a family. The couple would like to see the homeless population in Douglas decrease and they both play a crucial part in job placement and teaching life skills to those in need. Denise Burkett believes that a homeless ministry should be one that provides shelter and food for those in need. She quotes a particular scripture as a guideline for spiritual practice, “Isiah 58:7 calls for us to ‘share your food with the hungry and to provide poor wanderer with shelter…’”
The Burkett couple have experienced the positive and negative aspects of starting a homeless shelter in the city. On one hand, they have had the joy of sharing in the success of individuals that have passed through their doors.
“We like to hear about the guys that get on the right track again and reunite with their families” says Jerome. At the same time, since the Burketts do not have government grants and they depend on their own resources to fund the shelter, they both wish that they could expand their services and provide more support for those in need. The ministry does not solicit or request funding from outside sources but Burkett says, “We would gladly accept any help from the community, churches and individuals that are interested in assisting.”
The Refuge offers a two-week program to begin counseling and they immediately help in housing and job searches. Extra time may be allowed, but the ministry is a temporary shelter for men who have nowhere else to go and Jerome insists that the individuals abide by the house criteria. “We will not have individuals that are currently using drugs, we do not allow sex offenders or those with active warrants. We want to help people that want to become self-reliant.”
The Refuge is not a medical facility but Jerome does believe in healing. “We want to help people that are struggling,” he says. The facility has rules, a curfew and a strict anti-drug and alcohol policy. While tenants do not have to pay for their room and board, they are expected to actively work in some capacity. Donations are gladly accepted and The Refuge is always in need of food, toiletries, linens, men’s clothes and/or care packages.