Healing Hearts Physically And Spiritually In Our Communities.
New Friends Homeless Center was first conceived in 2010 when Pastor April Belt witnessed first hand the need for resources for the growing homeless population in her neighborhood of Woodland Hills, CA. On Thanksgiving day she stopped to give food and to talk with a homeless man. He shared that he used to live in downtown LA on Skid Row. Since it was so dangerous, he felt the need to move to a safer area in the San Fernando Valley. Unlike Skid Row where shelters, medical and treatment clinics are found centrally located within several square miles of the city, he was finding that resources in the San Fernando Valley for the homeless community were scarcely available. It was increasingly hard to find a free meal. The encounter profoundly impacted Pastor April and sent her on
a journey to fulfill a basic need of feeding the homeless in Woodland Hills.
In 2010, the homeless population was rapidly growing due to the sharp economic downturn. Many people and families had fallen on hard times and lost their jobs and their homes. As she prayed and thought about a way to help, she got a clear vision of serving every homeless guest a four-course sit down meal, restaurant style where the guests could get off the streets for a few hours. They would be treated with respect and dignity. They would be served a delicious hot meal and just be able to relax. It was to be more than just a feeding center. It was to be a place where the guests would feel welcomed, be acknowledged, feel a sense of community, build friendships, receive words of encouragement and hope and forget about their worries for even a short while.
With that vision in mind, Pastor April and a group of dedicated volunteers canvassed the city and reached out to the homeless community. They served the first four-course meal in March 2011 in a multi-purpose room of a Methodist Church in Woodland Hills. Over time, word got out and the community grew and New Friends Homeless Center was officially up and running on Friday nights.
A year later in 2012, while holding bible study at Saint Nicolas Church in Encino, Pastor April saw so many more homeless people as she left for the night and realized there was a need in Encino as well. New Friends Homeless Center on Tuesday nights was born.
Over 500 hot meals are served on Tuesday & Friday nights, and Sunday afternoons. The guests include homeless veterans, senior citizens, those who are disabled, those with special needs, low income guests and often their pets. At each dinner, guests also enjoy live entertainment which includes a variety of talented performers, singers, dancers and comedians who volunteer their time to be a part of what New Friends is doing. Birthdays are celebrated each month so the guests know that their lives do matter regardless of their situation. After dinner there is distribution of hygiene kits, pet food, clothes, blankets, tents and other needs as the guests leave for the night to head back to the streets.
Over the years the transformation of the guests has been remarkable. Their basic physical need for food is being met, but they are also receiving much needed emotional and spiritual fulfillment. The guests feel like they are part of a family, where they truly feel the unconditional love from the teams of dedicated volunteers. They feel that everyone genuinely cares about them. Financial contributions and donated food items have sustained the weekly feedings. In kind donations have allowed for distribution of hygiene kits, clothing, sleeping bags, pet food and tents.
Twice a month, New Friends Homeless Center hosts Family Give Back Night at both the Encino and Woodland Hills locations. This gives local families the opportunity to volunteer by setting up a table with their donated items to distribute to the guests as they leave for the night.
Serving three meals a week is simply not enough to meet the rapidly growing needs of the San Fernando Valley’s homeless population. The long term vision and goal is to have a building, or multiple buildings of our own. Our New Friends Homeless Shelters will not only provide daily meals multiple times a day, but they will provide shelter, hygiene, rehabilitation and vocational training as well. No one deserves to go without a meal and we believe that everyone deserves a warm bed to sleep in each night. The homeless population continues to grow year after year and has infiltrated our communities. We as a community need to be able to provide the necessary services to help them. It pains us to have to release all of our guests back onto the streets after dinner and we look forward to the day when we won’t have to do that.
New Friends Homeless Center strives to bring the homeless more than a meal, but genuine and lasting transformation. We provide a loving and accepting location where the homeless can receive a healthy meal, clothing, and critical needs without judgment. Our vision is for the New Friends Homeless Center to be a welcoming shelter with dedicated and robust transformational programs designed to help transition people back to a fruitful and rewarding life.
Three Phase Plan….More Than a Meal
What was born out of a simple desire to give hope to the poor and homeless in San Fernando Valley has quickly demonstrated there is a tremendous need to be addressed. As we look to the future, we strive to not only feed the victims of unfortunate circumstances, but also to bring a sense of fellowship, dignity and joy while working to make restoration a reality for our New Friends. Ultimately, our plan is to fulfill our vision by providing a shelter thriving with educational, spiritual and vocational services to help empower people in need to transform their lives.
- Our Current Phase – Doors opened in Woodland Hills in 2011
- Locations in Encino and Woodland Hills
- Preparing over 500 meals per week and distributing extra food packs
- Offering free clothing, hygiene kits, pet food, blankets, tents and sleeping bags
- Over 75 New Friends volunteers provide food service, entertainment and counsel
Daily Service at New Friends Shelter Facility
- Daily food service at the New Friends Shelter
- Preparing over 1500 meals per week
- Offering free clothing, hygiene kits, pet food, tents, sleeping bags and blankets
- Entertainment, food service and supportive family atmosphere
New Friends Overnight Homeless Shelter
- Overnight shelter with 50-100 beds including shower facilities
- Daily food service anticipating 3,000 meals per week
- Educational services and vocational support
Please consider making a donation to New Friends Homeless Center.