Volunteer Yadira Johnson with The Well Church, scoops hamburger meat into a tupperware container after serving food at the Agape House on Friday in Longmont. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

Justin Bupp isn’t just a resident at Agape Safe Haven’s shelter program — he’s also a key volunteer.

On an average day, he is likely to answer phones, help drive guests to a job interview or lend his cooking skills in the kitchen. While Bupp enjoys getting to help others struggling with homelessness, like himself, his work around the home has become increasingly critical as the need for volunteers grows.

Jessica Bennet, spokesperson for the faith-based nonprofit, described the situation as dire.

“We have an immediate need for 10 to 15 more volunteers, if we want to keep the shelter open all day,” Bennet said.

Each November to May, 15 people facing homelessness are selected to be part of Agape Safe Haven, which is part of Agape Family Services ministry. A ranch-style home located at 10656 Park Ridge Ave. serves as a main base for residents in the program. It’s here where they can take a shower, do laundry or use a computer to search for jobs. Each night, they gather to have dinner together before spending the night at a rotating selection of churches that offer overnight shelter.

Volunteers are needed to help cook meals, spend time socializing with residents, provide transportation and overnight supervision, plus assisting in planning fundraisers. People interested are not required to commit a certain number of hours and are welcome to work whatever is convenient to their schedules, Bennet said.

Bupp has gotten to know each person in the program like family. He can tick off each guest in the house and list their likes, dislikes, as well as their role in the Agape family.

“With my post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, this place has become my safe place,” Bupp said. “It’s so important to me. Anything I can do, to help to keep the doors open and things moving smoothly.”

As a result of the volunteer shortage, the six-person board has been picking up the slack. Bennet emphasized that each person who serves the board is a volunteer with a full-time job outside of their work at Agape. She approximated that volunteers were each working 30 hours or more a week to keep Agape afloat.

“We are running ragged,” Bennet said. “(Helping those in need) is what Jesus did. This is the hands and feet of Jesus and we need a few more hands and a couple of feet.”

Front Range Christian Fellowship Pastor Gary Jefferson , a co-founder of the nonprofit, said a lack of volunteers has consistently been an issue. Last year, it was so short on volunteers that the shelter program had to delay its start by more than two weeks. If there were more helping hands, Jefferson said board members would be able to spend more time with guests, as well as work toward solutions for finding more people housing. Volunteers also help the nonprofit to save precious funding. Each guest costs the nonprofit roughly $5,000 per season. Agape Safe Haven operates on a budget of less than $100,000 annually. Funding is obtained through grants and donations.

The nonprofit has roughly eight volunteers currently. For those who do contribute time to Agape Safe Haven, Bennet and Jefferson said there are many benefits. Perhaps one of the biggest rewards, Bennet said, is gaining compassion and understanding.

“Homelessness tends to be an arms-length issue,” Bennet said. “People see them, but don’t make the time to get to know them. Here, people are trying to turn their lives around. That’s powerful ministry.”

Bupp, who is disabled, said when he first moved into the home he felt “useless,” because he couldn’t work. He described volunteering as giving him a purpose and helping him to connect meaningfully with the guests that stay there.

“They need someone to listen to them,” Bupp said.

In addition to teaching guests responsibilities like keeping the house clean, they learn conflict resolution skills and are encouraged to save money. Starting in November, a counselor has also been visiting with Agape residents regularly.

So far this season, two Agape guests have found housing, another person secured a job as an electrician and a fourth person is in the process of being approved for a place to stay. Each season, Bennet said the majority of those in the program end up finding homes.

The Agape ministry, initially called Christian Outreach and Emergency Shelter, started in 2006. At first, the shelter was only open during inclement weather periods. In 2016, the program shifted to provide more support to those struggling with homelessness. Through an interview process, the program began selecting individuals who were too emotionally and physically vulnerable to go to a traditional shelter and showed a desire to be independent.

Since Agape was founded, Jefferson said he’s seen demand for the shelter program grow by about 10% every year, as more people struggle to find affordable housing. He said he hopes to see city leaders work together to better address the homeless issues.

“This is a big city problem, but Longmont is still a little city” Jefferson said.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Bennet at or by calling the nonprofit at (303) 774-7994.

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