A Manhattan man not only works on homes but offers his up for people in need.
Many people would be hesitant to open their home to a stranger. But Michael Russell’s faith leads him to do so, including welcoming those who are homeless or have been addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The Dodge City native does home repairs and handyman work in Manhattan with his brother-in-law, Matt Amick. Before Russell, 26, married his wife, Lindsay, 23, he and his college roommates agreed to let the homeless or individuals struggling in life stay with them.
Russell is rooted in faith, born into a Christian family. He said he accepted Christ into his life at 4 years old. He and Lindsay now attend Refuge Church.
Russell said most people in their early 20s are driven by their careers, which are the focal point of their lives. He focuses on the relationships that he can build with people.
“Every time (Jesus) came into contact with people, he was a light to them, or he rehabilitated a bunch of different homeless people, which is something I’m passionate about,” Russell said.
Russell said he loves homeless people, saying it’s all rooted in faith and Christianity. He said homeless people could be in a tricky situation because of circumstances and situations; other times it’s choices they’ve made. Russell could not explain how he finds people off the street other than he does.
In Russell’s experience, when taking people in, they sometimes use drugs or alcohol or have past abuses or a harder upbringing.
He said if you just take someone in and think all you have to do is feed them and clothe them, that will help. But that doesn’t mean they will figure out how to change their behaviors.
Russell said he sets boundaries and rules for the people he opens his door to. He said there is no alcohol in the house, they have to be looking for a job, and they have to attend church. He said if those rules are broken, or they are lying about the things they say they are doing, that’s when people have to leave his home.
“If they are not trying to change, it’s not a three strikes, you’re out kinda thing. There is more grace than that,” Russell said. “But if the pattern is, I don’t want to change. I just want the things you’re giving me. Well, then they’re not welcome.”
Russell also likes having a flexible work schedule so that he can help people in any way he can.
His wife, Lindsay, who works for Big Brothers Big Sisters, said Michael is a selfless person who gives up his time, resources and finances to help others. She said sometimes she doesn’t want people over, but Michael isn’t that way.
Lindsay said she wants to grow in hospitality, and they had that conversation before getting married.
“We’ve always wanted our house to be open,” she said. “So he naturally is just so loving of people and sacrificial in that way.”
Lindsay said they also volunteer with Angels of Hope in Junction City. As a part of the program, the two took in a 14-month-old and 2-year-old for around three days after they were separated from their parents. Lindsay said the children were amazing. Michael’s and Lindsay’s flexible work schedules allow them to take to take on the responsibilities of community involvement.
Russell’s handyman work helps his church members. Lindsay said their church has a women’s ministry house, and he fixes problems when they arise. She said when they first met, he made repairs to the church when they were needed.
Russell and Amick started Home Sherpa. The two work around the city doing repairs and prepping houses for the real estate market. Russell, who graduated from Dodge City Community College and Manhattan Area Technical College, spent a short time working for BHS Construction and Heritage Construction before starting his own home inspection business.
He then transitioned to home repairs and handyman work and works with real estate agents in the area to get homes ready.
Local real estate agent Clay Grayber said he used Russell when he was a home inspector. Grayber said he still has Russell inspect homes from time to time but now contracts out small projects for Russell to do.
Grayber said Russell does everything from renovation to repairs, exterior siding, painting, gutter works, drywall and carpentry.
Grayber said Michael is responsive, quick to get to a client’s house, always does what he says he’s going to do and has extensive background and knowledge in construction and home inspecting.
Grayber also said that Russell has good entrepreneurial spirit. He said a lot of entrepreneurs will just have ideas and never bring anything to fruition, but Russell is doing it.
“I started to see his business take shape and what he really wants it to become,” Grayber said. “There used to be a lot of ideas, and now it’s starting to actually become stuff. So it’s nice to see him actually carry it out.”