Help plan the community's future March 18

Mar 10, 2014


A community-wide meeting is being planned at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at the Haywood County Senior Resources Center to chart an immediate and long-term plan for nonprofit and faith-based community action over the next five years and beyond.

It is a meeting patterned after one held five years ago where the Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter was formed and other initiatives to help the homeless were begun.

Now the shelter is at the cusp of change after losing its former location, and a number of other social needs in the community have cropped up.

"I foresee a huge issue with family housing," said Patsy Dowling, executive director of Mountain Projects. "This last year been one of the most difficult years I have faced," Dowling said. With sequestration, we went almost a year, and couldn't help a single person with housing.

Nick Honerkamp, pastor at New Covenant Church who now heads the homeless shelter effort, said the community meeting will be one that provides a snapshot of the needs ahead, a time to brainstorm about the future and hopefully a plan for moving forward.

"I believe we are at our best when we pull the community together, identify what resources already exist and then allow for new solutions to emerge," he said.

Part of the path forward will be a way to fund the plan. Social enterprise solutions will be explored. A social enterprise is a business model that uses proceeds to help a specific need as opposed to simply making a profit for stockholders or owners.

Honerkamp said there are many skilled business people in the community who may be willing to help hatch a business that hires mid-level managers who will work with those in poverty to provide funds to be plowed back into the program. He is hoping those individuals will attend the community meeting, and will bring their ideas.

Part of the discussion will address homelessness in Haywood and an dream to turn the emergency homeless shelter, which now operates from November through April, into a year-around operation.

The Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter and First Step Ministry have proposed using  two buildings on the prison campus as an emergency shelter and as a half-way house for immediately after they are released from jail. The Open Door is looking at opening a kitchen at the facility.

During the meeting, key nonprofit leaders will provide an overview of basic human services offered in the community. There will be an opportunity to hear about emerging programs that build on the basics. A brainstorming session will close the meeting where all ideas on how to accomplish the dream of “Rebuilding Lives.”

"We need to figure out how, as a community, we can come together, continue existing partnerships and develop new ones. My vision is a continuum of care from homelessness to home ownership," Dowling said. "United we're so much stronger than each of us doing our own little thing."

For more information on the meeting, contact Dowling at 452-1447 or Honerkamp at 627-9000.

"We want everyone with a passion for basic human needs to be there," Dowling said.