Luke Redus, director of the Conroe nonprofit Compassion United, had one of the first shovels in the ground at a June 17 groundbreaking for the latest addition to the Miracle City campus—a 15-bed transitional living housing unit for people facing homelessness and or addiction, the first of several, according to a Compassion United announcement.

Redus told Community Impact Newspaper the units are intended to tackle several root issues of homelessness and addiction, such as addressing past traumas. Compassion United staff, who are trained in addressing addiction recovery, will be on-site to ensure residents have regular check-ins.

“Whatever the case may be, we started working on putting things together to help them overcome that,” Redus said.

The site will also help people facing homelessness “get back on their feet,” Redus said. He said in his experience that many unhoused people he met had good technical skills but needed help with “soft skills of employment” and their own self-perception.

“You can take a homeless person and put them in an apartment, but then you have a homeless person in an apartment,” Redus said. “We help them learn to look at themselves and at life differently.”

According to data from the Houston-based nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless’ annual Point in Time survey, Montgomery County unsheltered populations increased from 44 to 86 annually from 2017-20, then decreased from 86 to 29 in 2022.

Redus said, in his experience, homeless people wind up in Conroe due to a variety of factors, including access to the county’s only emergency shelter, but also due to the county jail, meaning unhoused individuals from other part of the county end up stranded in the city.

Redus also said several city ordinances against sleeping in public areas make it hard to assist people directly.

“They don’t always want to be found,” Redus said.

The transitional living unit is under construction through a partnership between HomeAid Houston—the charity arm of the Greater Houston Builders’ Association—and Highland Homes, an employee-owned home-building company based in the Dallas metro area.

Carole Brady, executive director of HomeAid Houston, said Highland Homes joined the project through a GHBA contact. She described the transitional housing unit as “an amazing idea.”

“I think there is always going to be the [homeless] population, but I think there is always going to be these organizations that say, 'You know what, it doesn’t matter how you got here, we’re going to be there to help you,'” Brady said.

A decade-long plan

Redus began trying to help homeless people in Conroe in 2006, when he and his wife, Karla, began taking meals to city parks to try and serve those in need. After founding Compassion United as a charity, he launched its first transitional housing unit for men in crisis in 2010. More homes for crisis pregnancy and for women in general followed in 2010 and 2013, respectively.

“The goal is to offer robust and holistic services for supporting people in need,” Redus said.

Redus first imagined the Miracle City concept in 2009, but the charity’s board advised him that Compassion United was not ready to support the endeavor in 2014. He returned to the concept in 2017, and in 2018 was able to secure commitments from the Conroe City Council.

In February 2019, the city donated a 5-acre parcel of land, and Montgomery County’s Community Development office provided a $1.2 million grant. Miracle City’s campus broke ground in 2020 near Foster Drive, and its five-year build-out includes a tiny-house village as well as more skills training facilities, such as for carpentry, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. Redus said the transitional housing would be the first phase of building.

"Homelessness isn't a black-and-white issue; it isn't a cut-and-dried thing," Redus said. "There are faces behind those names. My passion is for people to understand that there is more to it than, 'They don't want to work,'"

To learn more about Miracle City, visit Compassion United's website.