Haywood Helps gains momentum
At a second community-wide meeting to address poverty issues in Haywood, a website was unveiled that pinpoints safety-net services across the county.
Patsy Dowling, executive director of Mountain Projects, said when she and Pastor Nick Honerkamp called the first meeting in March, the goal was to build a network in the community to ensure all human needs could be met — from housing to emergency services to heating assistance.
The social enterprise business model was identified as a way to generate funds to meet the needs.
Michael Rich spearheaded the effort where all organizations, churches, nonprofits or government agencies can be part of a master website showing location, contact information and what services are provided when.
Rich said he found a system with a searchable data base where participating groups could add information and update it as needed. The cost: $120, an amount Honerkamp said his church would cover.
“All we do is put you in touch with a user name and password, and you can contribute,” Rich said.
He praised the three other members of the technology committee who helped make the site possible in slightly more than a month — Peter Mudge, Holly Parker and Andrew Bowen.
A tremendous boost came from Casey Rowland with KARE, who was putting much of the information on an Excel spread sheet as part of a previous grant provided to the organization.
It turned out, that was the exact form needed to almost instantaneously populate the Google maps that are associated with the website. Other information available through the 2-1-1 telephone data base created several years ago through United Way and provided through the Haywood Senior Resources Center, help to complete the database.
The four categories of information that currently can be found on the site include food, housing, transportation and utility assistance. More categories are under construction.
Honerkamp, who discussed the housing needs in the community, said the data base instantly showed the absence of emergency housing for families. He attributed the smooth website process to divine intervention.
“We really appreciate Michael,” he said. “We asked him to do an impossible task and originally thought this would be a $30,000 project. He built us a website that is exactly what we needed for $120.50.”
The next step is to work with the organizations and provide the access codes for those who want to have more than the basic information listed on the site.
“It will be fairly easy to go from where we are now to completed database,” Honerkamp said. “The challenge for us is to understand the opportunity we have right now to work together.
The Technology Group for haywoodhelps.org has set it's next meeting at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, May 29 at the Senior Resource Center at 81 Elmwood Way in Waynesville.
At the meeting, volunteers will be trained in basic operations for the website. Interested community members are welcome.
Housing, emergency needs
Honerkamp said plans for an year-around emergency shelter and a half-way house for those released from prison at the site of the former Hazelwood prison are taking shape.
A memorandum of understanding with the county to use a portion of the property has been signed and fundraising will start immediately.
Perry Hines, executive director of the Open Door, said a committee he’s been working with has identified the challenges facing those in poverty. An identified issue is the lack of a loan bank to help pay for rent and utility deposits. There’s also trouble finding affordable child care, and even help to provide a decent burial for some families who have lost loved one.
“Our desire is to be effective, efficient and carry on programs that meet the needs of people who need emergency services without needless duplication,” Hines said.
So far several possible enterprises have been identified as a way to address poverty issues or raise funds to assist anti-poverty efforts.
Marti Bowman discussed research under way to sell water under the Haywood Helps brand at area festivals and local stores to raise funds and the possibility of putting together a cookbook featuring signature recipes of area restaurants and bed and breakfasts.
Jim Blyth discussed plans to organize a day labor pool where those needing work could congregate in a specific area in the morning and those in need of workers could drop by and hire them.