Our Story
Now in its twelfth, year, a sustainable housing model called Friendship House was created in Holland, Michigan, on the campus of Western Theological Seminary.  There, persons with an intellectual/developmental disability live in community with seminarians, not as persons needing caretakers, but as persons growing in independent living skills, holding down jobs and participating meaningfully in the larger community.

The living experience is nothing short of life-changing for the friends, their parents and the students.  As one student remarked, “Living in Friendship House will break down any prejudices, any preconceived notions that you have about persons with disabilities."
In the spring of 2010 a conversation began, in Durham, about securing safe and affordable housing for persons with I/DD (friends) living in community with Duke Divinity School students.  The parents, gathered in the Reality Ministries Center in Durham, could barely contain their enthusiasm—and their questions!  The last comment came from Greg, a second year divinity student, when he announced, “If you create this housing opportunity, it will change Duke Divinity School!” 

Soon a delegation of parents and a director from Reality Ministries were visiting the model on which Friendship House-Durham is patterned.  Now in its seventh year, Friendship House—on the campus of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan--has had a transformative effect on students and friends alike.  That story is available on Duke’s Faith and Leadership website, HERE.  At the end of the visit in which the delegation dined in the friends’ apartments, spoke with students and met with parents there,  all were agreed, “This is better than anything we could have dreamed of;  this needs to be in Durham with Duke Divinity School students.”
Now in its fourth year Friendship House—Durham is flourishing.

The name of this endeavor—Friendship House—says it all. As Amy Julia Becker, author of A Good and Perfect Gift, commented after visiting Friendship House; “it is not “Social-Justice House” or “Pity for the Other House” or “Helping Those in Need House.” Rather, the name suggests relationships of reciprocity rather than of power. Seminarians and friend-residents forge relationships of mutual self-giving that transform and encourage everyone involved. Friend-residents report great gains in independent living skills, self-esteem, and social skills. Seminarians report a newfound depth of theological insight coupled with a greater ability to serve the pastoral needs of congregations and agencies.”

The vision of Friendship House Partners has been affirmed through a generous gift from the Tom Russell Charitable Foundation in Chicago.  Through this gift, now is the time for Friendship House to multiply.
Please consider joining us to make this kind of transformational housing available in your community!