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With the help of a $150,000 gift from the sale of Westview Christian Church back in 2016, Hope Station is able to expand its mission with a new family shelter slated to open in the fall.
"We are looking forward to later this year when these folks show up at our door, and we will be able to say, 'Come in, and we will give you rest,'" said the Rev. Linda Walling, Hope Station's executive director.
For more than 30 years, Hope Station has served the most vulnerable populations by way of food, the men's shelter and emergency financial assistance. But in the past several years, it has seen an increasing need for an emergency shelter for families struggling with homelessness.
"There is a whole segment of our population who is one paycheck away from homelessness," she said. Walling said the goal is to provide family shelter beds in a county that is in a low-income housing crisis.
Hope Station's board of directors finalized the purchase of a more than 1,900-square-foot home adjacent to Hope Station's current location at Goldsboro and Vance streets. That home, located at 310 Tarboro St., will be transformed into the new emergency family shelter. It's expected to provide an additional 4,000 shelter beds per year for homeless families - couples with children, single fathers with children, single women with teenage sons who are too old for other shelter options, and single women when other shelter beds are not available.
"There are families that are suffering in the absence of temporary emergency housing," Walling said. "We are anticipating the shelter will be at capacity the night it opens."
Walling said Hope Station's goal is to leverage those families' resources and community resources to get them into permanent, stable housing. The new family shelter will have 16 beds with the anticipation of 12 of those being occupied each night, officials said.
'HOUSE OF CARDS'
A recent housing report shows that Wilson County has the third-highest rate of evictions among cost-burdened renters in North Carolina - just behind Edgecombe and Nash counties, according to the North Carolina Housing Coalition.
About 3,000 households, or 48 percent of Wilson's cost-burdened renters, faced an eviction in 2016.
Walling said there are many reasons that families fall into homelessness, including job loss, divorce, financial struggles, unexpected medical expenses and car repairs and the inability to keep up with rent due to low-wage jobs.
"It's a house of cards," she said. "If any one card falls, a family can end up homeless."
Walling said some are currently roaming the streets or at 24-hour businesses, some are living in cars or abandoned buildings, and some are living in the woods.
WESTVIEW CHURCH SOLD
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. She said because the church had been involved in assisting homeless women and families, members asked whether Hope Station would consider opening a family shelter with their gift of $150,000.
Walling said after several discussions, the board agreed to accept the gift and proceed with the consideration of starting an additional shelter. It was also understood that if a new shelter could not come to fruition, another use of the funds by Hope Station would be acceptable, Walling said.
Part of the $150,000 gift has been used to purchase the future home of the family shelter on Tarboro Street and cover expenses including the initial engineering, architectural and rezoning issues.
"It's going to take $350,000 to restore the building and operate the shelter for the first year," Walling said.
Hope Station will kick off a capital campaign in the late summer with the goal of raising $200,000, which will be used to renovate and furnish the new facility.
The city of Wilson has to approve the plans for the home's restoration, which should occur within the next couple weeks, Walling said. After that, Hope Station can move forward with renovations and restorations.
The home was already gutted prior to the board of directors purchasing the property.
BB&T staff recently took on more than a dozen projects for Hope Station as a part of the Lighthouse Project - four of which pertain to the new family shelter.
BB&T staff worked to install a new playground this week that will be used for the family shelter. Other teams will be stocking the family shelter's kitchen with supplies, including dishes, cookware, glasses and children's plates and cups as well as a dining table and chairs.
Another group will be furnishing a study room inside the family shelter with computers and supplies as well as study workstations. Another team provided move-out kits for families that Hope Station officials will use once they move those families out of the shelter and into stable housing.
Several other projects were taken on for Hope Station's pantry and men's shelter, which are still a part of its mission.
"Every year I'm reminded about how generous BB&T is through the Lighthouse Project," Walling said. "There is so much more we are able to do for clients when BB&T provides volunteer hours, supplies and equipment for our work."
In the last 12 months alone, Hope Station has had 132 men housed in its shelter. On average, its pantry serves 1,202 individuals per month.