(Orange, Texas)

July 21, 2013

Serenity House pays it forward

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — Heaven’s Serenity House started as a way to pay it forward after someone gave Janna Morgan, owner and operator of the homeless shelter, a second chance.

“I use to be an addict,” Morgan said. “Someone was willing to open a door and give me a second chance.”

The non-profit center usually houses 20-25 residents at a time, some from as faraway as Alaska, New York and Canada. Residents must be at least 18 years of age and while many are single, some are families. The men stay in a smaller house next to the main house, while the women stay in the main house.

“Each person has a chore list and must keep their area clean,” Morgan said. “They must look for work while they are here.”

Morgan said the center will work with individuals to help them get off drugs, attend meetings, apply for food stamps and connect with Texas Workforce.

“We have Bible Study five days a week,” Morgan said. “It is mandatory for the residents to attend.”

Morgan said the home is a hand -up not a hand-out for the residents.

Morgan recalls one resident when the unnamed female first arrived at the House.

“She was so messed up,” Morgan said. “She handed me her keys, her cards, her dope and asked for help.”

The woman stayed a year at the shelter and is planning to graduate next semester.

Morgan said other have gone to school as well.

“That is what it is about,” Morgan said. “It is about helping people change. If I am able to help just one, it’s worth it.”

Heaven’s Serenity House, Morgan’s residence, opened ten years ago and is the only homeless shelter in the Orange area.

Morgan said the one thing that helps her continue forward is seeing one person smile.

“I have seen resident leave disgusted,” Morgan said. “Only for them to come back crying. It breaks my heart because I know they can do it.”

John Allen, 48, originally from Chicago, is a current resident at the shelter.

Allen was traveling to Mobile, Alabama to work on a shrimping boat when he had a seizure which put him in the hospital.

“I broke my glasses during the seizure and I was not allowed on the road without them,” Allen said. “The police told me about Serenity House.”

Allen said the center has helped him a great deal.

“If I had kept going, I would have fallen down the wrong path again,” Allen said. “The shrimp boat I was suppose to go on were all drinkers. The guidance of Janna and Randy has turned my life around.”

Allen also said that in just over the month he has stand at the shelter he has learned to do for others instead of just for himself.

Pastor Joseph Henry, a Bridge City High School graduate and author of Back to the Basics: It’s God’s Way or the Highway, is one of the pastors that volunteers to conduct the Bible Study.

“I use to work with at risk kids for 13 years,” Henry said. “Serenity has families here.”

Henry has volunteered at the shelter for over a year.

“I believe in giving people a second chance,” Henry said. “I do not give up until they give up. If they give up, then my hands are tied. A lot just want someone to show they care.”

Henry says he loves working with Janna and the family atmosphere at Serenity House.

“We say ‘welcome home’ when someone walks in the door,” Janna said.

The shelter is not government funded. It operates on donations. A fund-raising car wash will be held 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Saturday, July 27 at Dairy Queen located at 2426 North 16th Street in Orange. The residents will also have hand-made wooden crosses for sale.