Tacoma church gym becomes homeless shelter to help battle crisis

For the past year, Dr. Eric Jackson transformed the gym at Bethlehem Baptist Church.into a shelter on many nights to give people without a home a place to sleep.

A Tacoma church is trying to help fight the city's homeless crisis by opening up its gym into a shelter.

"We're the first, so hopefully it opens doors for others to do it," said Dr. Eric Jackson, Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

For the past year, Jackson transformed the gym on many nights into a shelter to give people without a home a place to sleep.

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"We don't call them homeless. We don't call them any surface name. We call them our guests," Jackson said.

The space has housed about 15 families at a time from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

"We're here to do as much as we can with what we have," Jackson said.

Dr. Jackson said he hopes to reopen the shelter this month to more families. With Tacoma fighting a homeless crisis, the city changed its rules in October by allowing churches and nonprofits to work with the city to house homeless people.

"I think if we're the test, I think we're ready to say, 'Hey. It worked. Let's move forward," Jackson said.

Jackson says the church is looking for a new provider to help manage the shelter and help transition people.

"So once they are here how do they transition into more permanent housing," Jackson said.

Church volunteers like Martha Nash are ready for the doors to open to help out

"I believe that you can't be blessed if you keep your fists closed. If nothing goes out, nothing will come in," Nash said.

For Pastor Jackson, he hopes to continue to be a part of the conversation.

"It brings the church to the table, to an issue that should already be at the heart of the church," Jackson said.