Help the 'Rebuild Lives' effort in Haywood

By Vicki Hyatt | Feb 28, 2014

Now that plans are moving forward for local nonprofit agencies to lease the former Hazelwood state prison, fund-raising efforts are gearing up.

The Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter and First Step Ministry want to use two buildings on the prison campus as a year-around 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.

Haywood County acquired title to the former state facility for just $1, and commissioners have signaled a willingness to lease buildings to the nonprofits for $1 a year.

While the building price is right, an estimated $80,000 will be needed to bring the building into compliance, with more needed to get operations in place and provide staffing for the program.

A community-wide meeting is being planned at 4 p.m. March 18 at the Haywood County Senior Resources Center on Elmwood Way in Waynesville.

"This will be a brainstorming session, of sorts," said co-organizer Patsy Dowling, Mountain Projects executive director. "We will provide a brief overview of where we've been, where we are at now and then discuss where we'd like to be."

"Five years ago, we had a large county map where we identified present places for food, heat and shelter,” said The Rev. Nick Honerkamp, who is co-chairing the meeting. From that meeting, the Haywood Emergency Christian Shelter emerged. The meeting will start with an update of all that’s happened after the community meeting."

After key nonprofit leaders provide an overview of basic human services that address the needs of the focus population, 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.”

A core committee has already met several times to consider possibilities, including starting a social enterprise — a business specifically set up to tackle a social problem with profits going back into the business to pay for current program needs and future expansion. People in the programs, in this case the homeless and those just released from prison, would be hired to work with experienced managers, allowing them to learn a skill and earn funds to rebuild their lives.

Those with business knowledge and an idea of what might be a workable social enterprise in Haywood are encouraged to attend the meeting.