Be Able Community Center gives struggling Manhattan residents a place to rebuild

Be Able is a relatively new nonprofit in the greater Manhattan area. The faith-based organization seeks to become a one stop shop for addressing multiple community issues at its center at 205 Fourth St., but the pandemic has made it more difficult to connect with people who need help. (Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

Be Able Community Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a safe space for those in need and helping people who are homeless or struggling financially.

The center was founded by Scott Voos, former managing director of Kansas State’s Academic Coaching Program, this past September. As executive director of Be Able, he established a base for the organization, where he wants it to go and what it has already achieved.

“My work began before Be Able was formed or when our doors were open,” Voos said. “I am a lifelong Manhattan resident, so I know the area very well. I have volunteered or worked with my church group for the past 3 years, so I’ve gotten to know the lay of the land as far as the ground floor level of the need that is in the area, as well as relationships with people who are on the rough end of life.”

Voos said he and his staff have helped over 100 people who have walked through their doors, greeting each one with open arms.

“We are a place that has graffiti on the walls, the people who run this organization are wearing t-shirts and a flannel open shirt, so we don’t presume authority, we don’t presume that we have all of the answers,” Voos said. “It’s more of a casual relationship-building approach.”

Marlon Jackson, a Be Able employee, offered his insight on what he’s learned since starting at Be Able and how the organization has influenced the lives of others.

“You can learn a lot from people who come in here,” Jackson said. “Whatever they’re going through or whatever their struggles are, as long as you don’t judge them.”

Be Able also helps people recover information they may have lost.

“We help with recovering identification,” Voos said. “Birth certificates, social security cards, driver’s licenses, state ID’s. We take those things for granted, but when those are lost, it’s a huge hill to climb, especially during COVID when offices are shut down.”

COVID-19 impacted Be Able’s efforts to better the community, making it harder to help with the many hardships faced by homeless and struggling people.

“COVID has made it harder to develop more partners in the community because people are reluctant to come in and see the place,” Voos said. “We’ve had to promote it social media-wise and word of mouth.”

While Be Able is always looking for volunteers, Voos makes it clear what type of volunteers they are looking for.

“We want to form relationships. It takes a special person to be willing to enter into the mentor space,” Voos said. “You have to have grace and be able to understand empathy. That’s hard to teach.”

Joseph Hodges, a resident coming to Be Able for almost 3 months, has found more leadership from Be Able than most places offer.

“They care. They want to make a difference. They realize the struggles of life, and they want to point you in the right direction,” Hodges said.

Be Able’s five guiding principles — God, community, collaboration, integrity and discernment — show what they are all about and what they stand for, Voos said.