This is a part of our Q+A series. Know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.
Profile: Brian Seeley is the Executive Director of Gospel, Inc., a local organization dedicated to serving Lakeland’s homeless community, now taking on a permanent housing project for those in need.
To learn more about the project, Gospel Village, we’re asking Brian our burning questions. Read on to learn about Brian’s impact on the community and the current progress.
Q: What’s your name, title, and 3-5 things you want people to know about you?
A: Brian Seeley, Executive Director of Gospel, Inc.
- Through my walk with Jesus and in community with others I have learned how broken and in need of grace and mercy I am.
- I love my role as a husband and father. I have the most amazing wife and daughter!
- I am very blessed to get to see a long-time dream of mine like Gospel Village come to life in Lakeland.
Q: What inspired you to serve the homeless population in Lakeland?
A: Simply Jesus. I became a Christian when I was 19 and God called me to work with people experiencing homelessness — apart from a call from God, not I nor any employee of Gospel, Inc. would be doing the work that we do. It is a God mission that we have the privilege of participating in.
I came to Lakeland to go to college at Southeastern University and earned a degree in theology and a master’s in counseling. During that time, I worked very closely with the homeless population in Lakeland and eventually established Gospel, Inc.
Q: What will the completed project look like?
A: Our ultimate goal is to have 150 units over a three-phase period. We plan to break ground on the first phase, which will be 24 units, within a year.
Q: Do you have a completion date/grand opening in sight for the village in its entirety?
A: We do not have a grand opening in sight yet, however, we will be having a fundraiser on-site in November of this year, which will be a great opportunity for people to come to learn about our vision for the future of the property and housing for people experiencing homelessness.
Q: For tenants, do you obtain them via outreach, or do they have to join the program on their own?
A: We do outreach in the community and we also have Repurpose Art Studio which is open daily to women who are experiencing homelessness and have the opportunity to join our program.
Q: Will there be differing floor plans?
A: The new construction we will be doing is two-story buildings, contrasted with tiny homes that we eventually plan to replace the old mobile homes with. We provide housing to individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, which means they have a disabling condition that has kept them in a state of perpetual homelessness over a long time.
Q: Do you have plans for beautification or community-centric spots in the village?
A: We are establishing a farm, community fridge, and outdoor kitchen where groups will be able to engage with the life of our community and come share a meal.
Fun gathering places are slowly popping up and will become more vibrant and inviting as we continue to dream up the kind of space we want to create. There will be lots of opportunities for others to come help beautify the village. We are always thinking of ways we can draw people into the community.
Q: What is your vision for the next generation of people growing up in Gospel Village?
A: Gospel Village is a place of belonging where a person who has been stuck in the cycle of homelessness can settle, put down roots, and [permanently] call home.
They can stay for as long as they want to. Our vision for them is to discover the love of God for them and contribute what gifts they have to our community as we love one another. We are all richly blessed by God to have a place like Gospel Village where we can envision a future together, something we are always leaning towards. I am also very excited to be able to invite all the Lakeland community to join in on the fun!
Q: What kinds of work do you plan to make available to Gospel village residents?
A: Nearly everyone we provide housing to works for Gospel, Inc. If they have no income, they are asked to work a minimum of ten hours a week. Any additional hours are paid directly to them.
They are participating in the work to be done at the village as far as caring for the farm, maintenance, renovating units or the general areas, as well as working at Repurpose Art Studio producing sewn products and artwork. Micro-enterprise is at the heart of what we do and we are always thinking of ways to create more creative work opportunities.
Q: Do you hope to expand past Gospel Village?
A: I think it would be wonderful if each city in Polk County created similar housing opportunities for people experiencing chronic homelessness and we would love to help other cities establish their villages like what we have here in Lakeland.
Visualizations created by Apiary.