How We Started
Open Table received 501(c)3 non-profit status in March 2007, but the concept first began in late 2005 with a chance encounter with a homeless man. Members of a church youth group and adult members serving meals at Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) in Phoenix met a homeless man named Ernie. He simply asked if he could come worship at their church.
Though unanticipated, the adult youth workers were moved to agree to come the very next day to bring Ernie to their church service. Over the next few months, these church members brought Ernie to the church and back to the shelter each Sunday.
Ernie’s presence forced these church members to hear God’s call to use their vocational and life experiences and networks to help him restore himself to the community. They convened a group of church members (now known as a Table) as a Missional community and, with a homeless man named Ernie, took the transformational journey through the wilderness to the Jordan.
The Table met every week for eight months to develop and implement a stability plan to help Ernie access opportunities and overcome obstacles in areas including employment, housing, healthcare and transportation to empower his re-entry into the community. The coordinated efforts of the Table paved the way for Ernie to become an economically stable and a productive member of the community.
Open Table’s Founder and CEO, Jon Katov, led that first group of volunteers to partner with Ernie to write and implement a plan for Ernie’s life. Today, six years later, Ernie and Jon remain in community and friendship together. Ernie continues to live independently. From this very unplanned beginning, Open Table has now grown into a documented poverty transformation model and rapidly expanding poverty transformation movement in Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, New York and Texas.