A Keizer congregation is looking to give kids at a troubled apartment complex a hand up.

A member of the congregation at Outward Church of Keizer rented a unit at Clearview Apartments in southeast Keizer, which abuts Partridge Lane Apartments. The pair of adjacent complexes have taken more than their fair share of hits in the past few years: A drug-related homicide in 2009, a major fire in 2011 and, just this month, a drive-by shooting.

So now the apartment is becoming a refuge for children who live in the two complexes, including a homework club on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“They give them a snack, and when they’re done with their homework they take them outside and play foursquare, football, all that kind of good stuff,” said Pastor Matt Porter.

Porter said the goal was in part to occupy kids’ time. With idle hands comes opportunities to find trouble, he said.

“What really impressed me was how they have just created a relationship with these kids,” he added.

Jennifer Skipper said the concept began when she and a group from her church asked themselves a tough question: Were they really living how Jesus Christ commanded his followers to live?

“We heard (that) to seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the fatherless and go to those who are needy,” Skipper said. “We look at our lives and said, ‘We’re not doing that. We’re going in and out of church, yet our lives don’t look any different than anybody else’s.’”

Porter said that while there’s plenty of Keizer neighborhoods doing just fine, their focus on this group of apartments in southeast Keizer started with a conversation with police.

“They said it had quite a bit of violence going on (but) that group said we don’t care – we just want to go in there and help,” Porter said.

After reading about the apartment fire that destroyed four units, Skipper went there to find a manager and see what assistance Outward Church could offer. When that didn’t work, she took to the Internet. She found news accounts of shootings, gangs and violence.

“When we looked at that, we said, ‘That’s where Jesus would be.’”

Their presence, she said, has been well-received.

“There’s some really great people there that have had hard lives,” Skipper said. “… We just kind of hang out, meet people and listen to their hearts and encourage them.”