WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Hope for homeless families: New shelter should open by September

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The dream of a new temporary family shelter is now becoming a reality. Renovations are underway to the Hope Station’s Westview House — Wilson’s first shelter for homeless families.

Significant progress has been made to the 310 Tarboro St. home that’s adjacent to the Hope Station’s property at Goldsboro and Vance streets. Hope Station bought the 1927 home in October 2016 with the goal of transforming it into a shelter for homeless families.

The home is showing new signs of life. Construction crews continue to restore and transform the property that’s slated to be completed by the end of the summer.

“This is a long overdue dream coming true for our community,” said the Rev. Linda Walling, Hope Station’s executive director. “Families who have been living in their cars, in the woods, on friends’ porches or roaming around in 24-hour businesses will now have a safer and healthier option.”

Crews started working on the project in December. Walling said workers haven’t had any major delays, and the charity hopes to move new clients into the shelter by September.

“There are families already asking to be on the waiting list,” Walling said. “Families assume they are still going to be homeless in September.”

The shelter will be for single mothers or fathers with children, single women, couples with children and couples without children.

HOPE AND HEART

The nearly 2,300 square-foot home with a large wrap-around porch will include four bedrooms with two sets of bunk beds each. It will also have a kitchen and dining room area,a learning center for children who are staying there as well as a laundry facilities and a private bedroom for a night supervisor. The shelter will be handicapped-accessible with a ramp at the rear entrance.

“Every single person who has stepped into the house during the restoration has come away with a profound sense of hope and excitement,” Walling said.

She said for some it’s the shelter beds that will finally be provided, for others it’s the beautiful work on the historic preservation, and for many it’s the neighborhood revitalization.

“For most it’s all of this,” she said. “When completed, this will offer hope to the homeless, hope to a neighborhood struggling to maintain its properties and hope to our community that is working so hard to revitalize its downtown area, its heart.”

Because the home is situated in one of Wilson’s historic districts, the project had to meet guidelines established by the Wilson Historic Preservation Commission.

The home’s exterior continues to be restored in keeping with its original architectural design, Walling said. It will be beige to match the Hope Station’s exterior. Builders were required to save as much of the original wood siding as possible. And the home has character and charm to be inviting to homeless families in desperate need of a place to rest their heads.

“It’s giving people a place to call home temporarily,” she said.

When the home was purchased, it was already gutted. Everything inside the shelter will be new from light switches to plumbing to floors, walls and ceilings.

‘BEDS WILL FILL QUICKLY’

Capacity will be limited to around 12 clients, plus a night supervisor. Walling said staffers have no illusion that they will be able to shelter every family who is homeless in Wilson County.

“Beds will fill quickly, and we’ll have a waiting list,” she said. “But with our rapid-rehousing funding that helps move homeless families into permanent housing, we hope to make the shelter stays rare, brief and non-recurring, thus making the beds available to the next family.”

That funding is made possible through a federal housing grant. Over the last year, Hope Station has helped move 89 households into permanent housing, including 36 households with children.

Walling said of those households, more than half previously lived on the streets, in their cars or abandoned buildings. Those numbers don’t include families seeking assistance from or served by other agencies.

WESTVIEW CHURCH’S LEGACY

Westview Christian Church and its leaders were part of founding Hope Station nearly 30 years ago. Walling said upon its decision to conclude its active ministry, the congregation considered its legacy and how the proceeds from the sale of the Raleigh Road Parkway property would be used. The church gave Hope Station a $150,000 gift in July 2016. That donation was used for the initial costs of developing the shelter, including the purchase of the home for $15,000, rezoning fees and architectural and engineering. The remainder is intended to fund a portion of the operating costs for three more years along with additional support from the community.

“The vision and generosity of Westview Christian Church provided the impetus all of us needed to move forward,” Walling said. “And, in doing so, we are simply expanding on what Hope Station founded over 30 years ago — evaluating the community’s needs and launching services to fill in the gaps.”

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

“Yearly operational costs are estimated to be $100,000 to $125,000. The renovation cost of the historic home is roughly $350,000.

She said new construction would have been comparable. But demolishing the existing home and replacing it with something new would have imposed a waiting period required by the Historical Preservation Commission, which would have significantly delayed the project.

A capital campaign has been launched. More information on how the community can contribute will be forthcoming in June, Walling said.

“The generosity of the community has been heartwarming,” she said, adding that many people are on board to support the project. “Other significant offers of support have come as a complete surprise.”

Walling said the project continues to gain momentum. She believes the home’s rebirth as a shelter as well as the life it will bring to homeless families and the area is significant.

“It’s a beacon of hope for the homeless, but it’s also a beacon of hope for the city and its efforts for historic preservation and community development and neighborhood revitalization,” she said.

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