A half-million dollars is a nice way to jump-start a fund drive.
Despite it being many months until The Shepherd’s House launches a capital campaign to raise building funds for a new facility, several sizable donations have already been received, including an anonymous donation of $500,000.
“The $500,000 gift is not the only one we have received,” said Mary Boyles, executive director of The Shepherd’s House. crediting a Mount Airy News story in June with bringing a lot of attention to the proposed expansion of the city’s only homeless shelter. Boyles cited donations of $50,000 and $5,000, along with others which bring the total funds raised to $650,000.
“We knew we wanted the organization to have sustainability,” said Boyles, “so we started an endowment, which has been gifted with $128,000, including an anonymous gift of $100,000.”
Mike Bowman, chairman of the board of The Shepherd’s House, said the capital campaign would officially begin in late summer or early fall of 2018.
“We wanted to do it right,” said Boyles. “We met with some people to get advice on moving forward, and developed a three-year strategic plan.”
The organization has hired a Winston-Salem architectural firm to design the new facility they hope to build on the vacant lot behind their current location. A certificate of appropriateness from the Mount Airy Historic Preservation Commission has been obtained, and city planning director Andy Goodall is working with Eddie Bunn, of Bunn Engineering, and the architectural firm to get the lot intended for the new building rezoned, as it is zoned differently from the current, adjoining facility.
Haymore Memorial Baptist Church has agreed to continue leasing the current facility to The Shepherd’s House for $1 per year to be used as transitional housing, and Boyles said.
“We would not be where we are, if not for the generosity of Haymore Memorial Baptist Church,” said Bowman. “We would not even be talking about this. They have been so nice and so kind. We’ve worked with them for a long time.”
“The numbers were astronomical,” said Boyles of the number of people that The Shepherd’s House has been forced to turn away in recent years, due to lack of space. In 2016, the shelter served 253 people, and turned away 413 people, 197 of them children. In 2017 to date, 261 people have been served, and 543 people have been turned away, 298 of them children.
The new facility will more than double the amount of space available, with eight to 10 bedrooms, in comparison to the current facility’s four bedrooms. The current shelter maxes out at 18 people, and the new shelter would be able to serve 44-46 people at one time, according to Bowman.
The current shelter would be converted to transitional housing, efficiencies and apartments where graduates from the shelter could live for a time, gaining experience with paying rent, paying bills, working and building a life, before moving to permanent housing.
“Affordable permanent housing is the biggest challenge we have,” said Boyles. “The average rent in Surry County is $600 per month. That’s a lot for a county where one out of every four adults, and one out of every three children, is living under the poverty threshold.”
“Through our partnership with Workforce Unlimited, we can get someone a job in 24 hours, we can get them stable and back on their feet, but one of the biggest hurdles we face is finding low-cost housing.” Using the current facility as transitional housing would buy more time to find permanent housing. “Long term success is what we want,” said Boyles.
“Closing the loop” is how Mike Bowman referred to ending the cycle of homelessness. “People go out of the shelter, and if they can’t make it, they need to come back. We need to give them a chance to be successful.”
“This community is phenomenal and continues to step up,” said the board chairman, pointing to the large anonymous gifts as the latest evidence of that stepping up. “I feel really blessed to be a part of this.”
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.