Ministry offers hope to the homeless

FILE PHOTO Mark Leslie organizes cups of soup before departing the Hermiston Warming Station in Dec. 2014. Previously homeless, the Hermiston man now gives back through the House of Hope ministry.

House of Hope fundraiser features music, spaghetti feed


Community Editor

Taking a shower, getting warm, finding someplace to sleep and even eating a meal used to take a lot of energy and effort for Mark Leslie.

The Hermiston man survived homelessness for more than five years by finding isolated places to bed down. Reducing the risk of being noticed and kicked out, Leslie said it helped ensure that he would have a place to lay his head the next night.

As far as meals, Leslie ate wherever he could find food — sometimes going without. He began to crawl out of homelessness when he heard about Tacos and Testimonies through Desert Rose Ministries in Hermiston. Feeding him both physically and spiritually, Leslie now gives back to others through House of Hope Northeast.

“I was homeless and I was hungry,” he said. “They helped me get back on my feet.”

The ministry for the homeless initially began working out of Desert Rose — however, it is a separate nonprofit entity with many area churches involved, said Ken Yoder, who heads up the ministry. House of Hope received its own 501(c)3 in July 2017.

“It’s the body of Christ with all the churches in the area,” Yoder said. “There are 13 right now.”

A fundraiser, featuring musical entertainment and a spaghetti meal, is Saturday starting at noon at the First United Methodist Church, 191 E. Gladys Ave., Hermiston. There is no set fee, but donations will be accepted. In addition, information about the ministry will be shared.

Laying the foundation for hope

Still in its infancy, the ministry is hoping to secure its own building, said Yoder and Leslie, who is the board’s recording secretary. They want to offer a safe haven for the area’s homeless. In addition to feeding their souls, the ministry aims to meet physical and emotional needs by providing shelter, food, clothing and other basic needs to help people improve their lives.

Drafting policies and getting their nonprofit status has been a time-consuming process, said Linda Durant, House of Hope’s secretary. There’s a tremendous need in the area to serve the homeless, she said, which is evidenced by the number of phone calls Leslie receives on the organization’s cellphone.

“People are having a hard time fathoming that there are that many people in need in our community,” Leslie said. “It’s kind of like out of sight out of mind.”

Yoder, referred to as Pastor Chief by friends and congregants, said House of Hope was initially a vision of Pastor Jason Estle of Desert Rose Ministries. The idea, Yoder said, was to have it be a collaborative effort between area churches and nonprofit organizations to reach out to the homeless.

“Chief helps out so many people,” said Lisa Pierce, wife of Rev. Jim Pierce of the United Methodist Church. “It’s important that we have someplace for people to go if they are wandering on the streets.”

Durant, who moved from a metropolitan area on the East Coast, agreed. Services for the homeless aren’t as readily available in Eastern Oregon, she observed.

Referring to a passage in the Bible’s Gospel of Matthew, Durant said Christians are directed to reach out to others. The efforts, she said, are even more vital in rural communities.

“There is just a huge need here,” she said. “There’s not a government agency here to do it, not that we expect the government to do everything … but somebody, somehow needs to pick up the ball.”

To learn more about House of Hope, the public also is invited to board meetings. They are the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Hermiston Assembly of God Church, 730 E. Hurlburt Ave.

For more information, call Yoder at 541-990-9400, Leslie at 541-391-6435 or visit

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