Czeh Republic – Korbel Hostel: Safe Haven for Homeless
Korbel Hostel: Safe Haven for Homeless
In the eight short years since The Salvation Army marched back into the Czech Republic, its caring presence has permeated the country–from beggars in Brno to prisoners in Prague, from flood victims in Olomouc to Gypsy children in Kirnow, the Army is touching lives in significant and lasting ways.
Army work is carried out in in seven corps, in homeless facilities and shelters, day care centers, and in a thriving prison ministry. The work is administered under the direction of the Netherlands Territory.
“Since its decades absence, the Army is unfolding like a beautiful flower,” says Colonel Bill Luttrell. “Corps are bringing spiritual resources to people who are responding to the Gospel, and soldiers of long ago join with new recruits to form ‘a band that shall conquer the foe’.”
Both Captains Richard and Rebecca Huntley direct the 112-bed Josef Korbel Hostel. Opened in 1992, the hostel provides safe, clean housing for a small portion of Brno’s homeless population and provides daily meals for up to 150 in the winter. Twelve day care assistants provide staffing. “We are rich in staff here,” says Rebecca Huntley. Our care assistants are good about sharing personally with the clients. The challenge is to get them to grow spiritually.”
Clients are allowed to stay for three days for free. “If they want help, they can stay longer,” says Richard Huntley. “Otherwise, they must go.” It also has a voluntary chapel each night. Although 30 percent of the funding for the hostel is from the local government, no restraints are placed on running the programs.
In addition to helping homeless persons become productive citizens through counseling and work programs, the Huntleys have an important family advocacy ministry.
Recently, they reunited a 4-year-old girl with her parents, who are clients at the hostel. The child had been abused by her grandmother and subsequently placed in an orphanage. After working through the state’s court system, the girl was removed from the orphanage–a difficult process. “Rebecca goes to court and judges change their minds,” says Richard.
A vibrant prison ministry is conducted throughout the country by Majors Pieter and Jesina Katjee, headquartered in Prague, who visit 15 prisons a week in the Czech Republic. Just two years from retiring, the Katjees have served in that country for the past seven years.
Prison conditions are harsh, they report. “There are 30 to a cell in many prisons, with electricity for one hour each day, and only a hole in the corner for a toilet.”
Nonetheless, their ministry is fruitful. Pieter Katjee tells of giving a Bible to a youth in prison and returning three months later to have him tell him “I read this three times and now I am a new person.” Later, the guard said to Katjee, “What did you do to this man? He has changed completely!”
“Now, you know that’s the work of the Holy Spirit,” he explains. “I only gave a Bible.”