Homeless shelter opens tonight
Haywood County’s only homeless shelter is opening its doors tonight for those in need of a warm place to stay.
The Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter at Camp New Life in Waynesville is a nonprofit six-month shelter completely funded by community donations.
The shelter first opened in 2008 after a group of local churches, nonprofits and concerned citizens came together to discuss ways to provide for the homeless in the county. The mission of the shelter is the same today as it was then — to bring people to God and help them find a way out of poverty.
“We don’t want to keep them in victim mode. We just want to point them in the right direction so they can get themselves out of their situation and give them the tools they need to succeed,” said Russ McLamb, director of the shelter.
Of the 72 people who stayed at the shelter last season, 37 of them were no longer homeless when April rolled around. McLamb believes the shelter’s success comes from the strict rules at the shelter and the effort to enroll patrons in programs to help them rise out of poverty.
Each guest must pass a drug and breathalyzer test before being admitted for the night. If they fail those, the shelter institutes a 30-day ban. In the past, guests could still stay at the shelter if they blew up to a .04 on the alcohol test. However, this year the shelter is implementing a zero tolerance policy when it comes to both drugs and alcohol.
“That way if they know they’ve gone out drinking during the day, hopefully they won’t even come that night,” McLamb said.
Anyone staying at the shelter who has a job meeting certain requirements must pay $25 a week.
“We thought that was low enough so it wouldn’t hinder them saving for their own place,” McLamb said, though each person’s payment is considered on a case by case basis.
If a person is unemployed, he or she must be in school or a program that could help them obtain a job, or must volunteer 10 hours a week at a local nonprofit.
If they follow these rules, they can stay at the shelter the entire six months. If someone chooses not to follow the policy, the shelter has a “five in, five out” policy allowing them in for five days and then they must stay out for five days before they can return. Anyone who breaks any three of the rules will be kicked out for the rest of the season.
The rules not only prevent people from simply using the shelter as a free ticket off the street, but they also improved the environment and morale of the guests, McLamb said.
Aside from nightly activities and devotionals, guests are enrolled in community programs designed to help them recover from poverty, such as the Shelter Plus Care program with Meridian. This year, the shelter is also working with LifeWorks, a program at Haywood Community College, to provide resources for jobs.
Those who wish to stay at the shelter any given night should be at the Open Door in Waynesville at 6:30 p.m. so they can be shuttled to the facility. Those coming from Canton must be at the Canton Community Kitchen at 5 p.m. so they may eat dinner and then ride to the shelter.
Since HCES is completely funded through donations, the $40,000 yearly budget must come from fundraisers and community members. Most of that money goes toward paying security guards and paying for utilities in the building.
Aside from monetary donations, the shelter is also in need of warm clothing in all sizes such as toboggans, gloves and winter coats. This helps those who are lacking in winter clothing during the day when they cannot be at the shelter.
Last year, for example, one common shelter guest did not have any winter clothing because he had been in jail since summer time and was homeless when released in the winter.
McLamb wanted to thank all of the churches and people who have donated time and money to the shelter.
“Without them we would not be able to operate,” he said.
Those who wish to make a donation to the shelter can make out a check to Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter and send it to P.O. Box 1272, Waynesville or call McLamb at 828-506-7875.