The Welcome Home Ministry

Story author
Dorrie Merriam and Marguerite Sheehan
A photo of a freshly painted apartment building

The freshly painted Welcome House

Dorrie Merriam and her wife Marguerite Sheehan, a pastor in a local ecumenical church, have an ongoing concern about inadequate housing. Here is a snapshot of their Welcome Home Ministry.

When we moved to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, a small rural village, we saw that the cost of housing was on the increase and there was a shortage of small, comfortable apartments. We met local people who intimately shared that they were not able to keep up with rising rents. In particular, we met and talked with many single seniors who wanted to age in place in the community and were being pushed out of the area.

In response to this concern, we met with people in the community and with housing agencies. The process of writing grants or using state and federal agencies proved to be too slow, inadequate, and cumbersome. After a long period of discernment we decided to use our own funds to purchase a four-unit apartment house that had been under-used and neglected for years. Using our personal resources and with the hands-on help of many (Friends, friends, neighbors, and family) we were able to rehab the building into four simple, comfortable, under-market-rate, one-bedroom apartments. Now the apartments are homes for our intended population—local lower-income elders. The building is called Welcome House.

We are supported by Mount Toby Monthly Meeting with a housing ministry oversight committee. The committee, by its communal participation, demands a deeper spiritual conversation.

These are the queries that are leading us in this ministry.

  • How do we care for tenants and ourselves?
  • How do we make ethical and righteous decisions on a daily basis?
  • How are we faithful and when do we lose faith?
  • What challenges and stumbling blocks are we facing and how are we meeting them?
  • Are we open and listening to God’s calling?

In closing, we are most interested in talking with others about a Quaker response to the shortage of affordable housing—Please email Dorrie to begin the conversation.