LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- A man who has battled homelessness himself is now welcoming others into a shelter made for those who aren’t welcome anywhere else. Jean Manganaro officially opened The Gratitude House on West Chestnut on Monday, Nov. 13.
The men who live inside the building each have a story of their own.
“There's not a lot of places for a disabled vet to go with his dog," Terry Balz said.
For Balz and his service dog Ralph, the Gratitude House is a roof over their heads.
"Somewhere there's a future for me, back on top. But here for a while," Balz said.
Quenton Hobbs spent 17 years on the streets. Things finally came together and then fell back apart.
"I broke my femur, and short-term disability wasn't enough to pay for my rent, and when that ran out I lost my apartment, and when I lost my apartment I went to and stayed in a tent for two weeks," Hobbs said.
The Gratitude House is where they're rebuilding their lives, adding a new chapter to their stories and they're quick to say thank you to the man behind it.
"He's kind of like a mentor but a friend. He's someone that we know if we have a problem of any sort, we can always call him or text him if we need anything," Hobbs said.
"My dream has always been to have a 12 step recovery house for indigent people who want to become sober," Manganaro said.
Manganaro knows what it’s like to live life under an overpass. "I was homeless for five years," he said.
He knows how powerful one helping hand can be. "I wanted to be able to pass that along," he said.
Today he’s doing it through a once rundown building in the Russell neighborhood that now serves as a one-stop shop for the homeless in West Louisville.
Manganaro said, "If we start to get people well here in their community, the community will get better."
At the Gratitude House, people can stop in during the daytime for a hot shower or coffee. They can go to AA meetings or a bible study. They can also rent a room from Jean, and for the first two weeks, rent is free, as Jean helps them find a job.
He also has apartments for those like Terry and Ralph, who are on their way to getting their feet back on the ground.
"I came here just knowing that this could be a place that would help people," Manganaro said.
He said it’s the only shelter of its kind, accepting those with pets, and substance abuse issues.
Those who live there now say its life-changing and Manganaro says this is only the beginning.
Learn more about the Gratitude House by visiting Fed with Faith’s Facebook page. There you can get in touch with Jean and his wife Wendy, and learn more about the program and how you can help.
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