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Hospitality from the Heart

Kelly Houston is the first face a guest sees when they come through the doors of St. Francis Seraph Ministries (SFSM) in the morning. That’s a responsibility — and a privilege — Kelly doesn’t take lightly.

As Client Services Coordinator, Kelly fully embraces the Franciscan spirit of hospitality. He warmly greets and checks in each guest as they arrive for breakfast. And once they’ve had a chance to settle in and eat, he connects those in need to resources like housing, mental healthcare, emergency financial assistance, and more.

“I do my best to meet guests where they are,” Kelly says. “The goal is to make sure they leave happier than when they came in, whether that’s filling their bellies with food or giving them some positive words of encouragement.”

Since joining SFSM in April 2022, Kelly has established himself as a caring friend guests can trust. Many guests — especially those who are unhoused — are used to being judged or looked down upon. Kelly’s approach is to “talk real and be real” with them. He knows what it’s like to live in poverty. He remembers the days of trying to figure out how to pay the rent and get by from day to day.

“I most definitely can relate to struggling and being depressed and not having the things most people have,” Kelly says. “I try to be a regular, genuine person who’s concerned with getting them in a better place. I just want to be a real person to them so they can open up and tell me what they need.”

As a lifelong Cincinnatian — “I bleed 513,” he says — Kelly finds special meaning in being able to serve his neighbors. The calling runs in his family. His mother and grandmother were both teachers who were devoted to their students and their community.

Kelly was working as a paraprofessional educator and boys’ basketball coach when he learned about the Client Services position at SFSM. Making a career move hadn’t been on his radar, but he couldn’t turn down the chance to be part of an organization whose roots in Cincinnati were planted more than 175 years ago.

“I didn’t know this is what I was going to end up doing, but God just leads you places,” Kelly says. “We’re a staple in the community. We provide a service for people that saves lives. People depend on this. They know we’ll be here, and they know we can get them the things they need. I’m really thankful that all paths led here.”