By Morgan Bryce
The search is on for a new location of the Opelika-based men’s ministry “His Place,” following more than 30 years of serving the needs of broken and homeless individuals from its location at 1415 2nd Ave.
Pastor Rick Hagans, founder of both His Place and umbrella organization Harvest Evangelism, said the ministry will continue operating His Place’s rural facility while they seek to find a new location.
“We want people to know that His Place is not closed down … we just lost this one location. We are still operating the other location of His Place at ‘The Farm,’ which currently houses 25 men as well as the Hosanna Home for women up in Lafayette,” Hagans said. “Our goal, however, is to not lose our downtown presence. Our hope, our dream, our plan is to find another building in this general vicinity … because there is still a prevalent amount of homelessness that exists in our area.”
Hagans founded His Place in 1986, and moved into the building on 2nd Avenue in the late 80s. Previously a Dr. Pepper bottling plant, the facility was transformed by Hagans into a Christian community center that featured an arcade, bandstand and coffee shop geared toward youth. Later, he said he realized that his ministry could meet a larger community need.
“We’d have people come hear the concerts, and they would stay around and we would feed them and start talking to them and they’d tell you that they were living in the woods across the street or living in a drug-filled house which was problematic for them. So, we began letting some of them stay here for the night after everybody left,” Hagans said.
This was the start of His Place serving as a homeless shelter, and by 1991, had completely morphed into the ministry that exists today.
In August 2016, an inspection by a state fire marshal revealed that the building’s fire sprinkler system was severely outdated and not up to state codes, forcing Hagans to close the entire facility except for its kitchen, which continued its hot meal program for the homeless and shut-ins until early January this year.
While preparing to move, Hagans said he and staff pored through paperwork and was able to estimate that more than 3,000 men had passed through the facility.
According to Jeffrey Williams, one of those 3,000 men and a graduate from the ministry’s yearlong residential discipleship program, the program helped him steer away from his addictions and renew his relationship with his family.
“I’ve got a relationship with my family now that I never had before. Before I came into the program, I wasn’t even allowed on my mother’s property and now I go every other weekend to visit with her and my kids … being a part of this (ministry) is one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Williams said.
Reflecting on the last 30 years, Hagans said there are abundant memories being left behind, both good and bad, but remains optimistic for the future of the ministry moving forward.
“Years ago, one of my board members told me something he read somewhere that went, ‘God didn’t call you to be successful, He called you to be faithful.’ And so the truth of the matter is, to the best of our ability, we have been faithful to Him,” Hagans said.
For more information, updates or to donate, like and follow their Facebook page or visit www.harvestevangelism.org.