On a snowy December day in 2013, Lacey Thompson and Ryan Peppers knocked on the door of 2nd Street Commons in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
Both were homeless at the time and struggled with drug addiction. The couple needed a place to warm up and rest. When they knocked on the old wooden door of 2nd Street Commons, founder and owner Gar Mickelson welcomed them into his almost open, nonprofit.
The two struggling addicts shuffled in and quickly realized that the front room was flooded with water. According to Mickelson, a pipe had burst in their kitchen the previous day, covering the wooden floor with several inches of water.
“We came in and we looked around and the place was a disaster,” Thompson said. “We’re like, ‘Are you sure this place is open?’”
Four years later, colorful furniture, ornaments, and acrylic paintings now occupy 2nd Street Commons. These mismatched items, all donated by local residents, make up the front area of this cozy “downtown living room.” As visitors arrive, they’re greeted by Nox, a small wire-haired dog and Peppers and Thompson, who now volunteer full-time at 2nd Street Commons.
Mickelson and his wife, Vicki, sat together recently on a large black couch as he explained the beginnings of 2nd Street Commons. Mickelson said the community quickly got involved in their new cause after their doors opened in January of 2014.
“All of a sudden, people started donating stuff. Everything in this place is donated,” he said. “Right off the bat, it became a downtown living room for the people.”
Mickelson is the founder of Kaleidoscope Community Services, a nonprofit that facilitates the collaborations at 2nd Street Commons.
The 58-year-old felt a passion to serve people and work collaboratively with churches and other groups. Mickelson said his previous rolls as an outreach expert and pastor helped him to create Kaleidoscope Community Services and open 2nd Street Commons.
“You’re looking at what the needs are in the community, and you get the church involved. I’ve always been on the bridge back and forth between the church and street community.”
Mickelson scribbled down ideas on a napkin with a group of friends, and the idea of Kaleidoscope Community Services was born. His goal was to connect the appropriate resources to the people who needed them.
“That really became the focal point, bringing all kinds of resources to alleviate poverty, stress and strain for those of meager means,” he said. “But also coming together to solve real community problems. 2nd Street Commons is a place where people can get help.”
Along with facilitating volunteer groups, Mickelson said those at 2nd Street Commons serve a wide variety of people within the area.
“Some of these people are active in their addictions to alcohol or other types of drugs. Some of them do not have addiction issues; they’ve got mental health issues that preclude them from having regular employment.”
Multiple organizations have used the downtown living room as a place to share their religious beliefs as well as help locals struggling in poverty.
Mickelson said he is especially grateful for 2nd Chance Ministries, which is led by Executive Director Dirk Scott. His ministry hosts gatherings six days a week and provides approximately 1,000 meals per month at 2nd Street Commons. Their partnership, which includes 20 volunteers from 10 different churches, have helped those at 2nd Street Commons for over three years.
“Basically anyone needing a venue downtown that is serving those with some kind of need, they can call us up and book the place if it’s available,” Mickelson said. “We really want this to be a collaborative where we’re all sharing space.”
Since opening 2nd Street Commons, Mickelson said the organization has grown and evolved thanks to the people who spend time there.
“It’s not about Vicki and I,” he said. “We lit a fuse, and the natural progression is for 2nd Street to take on a life of its own. And it has. It really has.”
Over the course of four years, 2nd Street Commons has hosted over 450 volunteers from over 30 local churches, raised over $30,000 for people with urgent needs, and made over 50,000 “points of contact” and services to hundreds of individuals in need.
Within that time frame, the “downtown living room” has helped many people through interaction, prayer, and encouragement.
“So you see people that are in the midst of a variety of crisis, and you create a downtown living room that they can come to for free,” Mickelson said. “We interact with them, we build relationships with them. We know where they are staying, camping, squatting. We become the voice of their concerns.”
As 2nd Street Commons grew, Mickelson noticed a trend in many homeless people.
“People were suffering from a profound lack of hope that life could be different for them,” Mickelson said. “And so that’s what we wanted to bring—that hope. And I think lives have changed, and people have realized that things can be different through this place.”
Thompson and Peppers both believe they would be struggling if they hadn’t visited 2nd Street Commons on that cold December day. Mickelson said he is inspired by how far the couple has come since his first encounter with them.
“We have stories like that and those are the ones that give us a lot of courage,” Mickelson said. “Their lives have been changed, not because of Vicki and I, but because there’s a resource where they can come in and build relationships.”
Both Peppers and Thompson are grateful for the connections they have made at 2nd Street Commons.
“This place has given us the opportunity to make mistakes and to apologize and be forgiven,” Thompson said. “The opportunity to grow and make progress with a really good support system because we were really lacking in people that believed in us.”
As a result of their personal success, Mickelson said he would like Thompson and Peppers to eventually manage 2nd Street Commons.
“They’ve become the face of 2nd Street Commons,” Mickelson said. “That’s empowering. I’m going to keep putting tools in their hands to keep doing this. My hope eventually is that they will get the baton for it. That’s my hope.”
Mickelson recalls one of his favorite things he’s heard while at 2nd Street Commons.
“One of the highest compliments that we’ve gotten in the past is, when we do the morning time session, we’ve heard people say ‘I don’t feel homeless because this is my home.’”
To connect with 2nd Street Commons, 405 N. Second St., and Kaleidoscope Community Services, visit https://www.kaleidoscopecs.org/