The Transylvania Times -

Homeless Sanctuary Sought - Brevard NC


Last updated 4/7/2020 at 8:54am

Foreseeing the unsheltered population increasing because of unemployment, Emily Lowery, executive director of The Haven, wants to create a sanctuary, with amenities, such as hand-washing stations and showers for the homeless currently not sheltered.

"If we don't do this, this will be one way that it spreads, because they don't have any way to maintain their hygiene," Lowery said. "I would really like it if I could land one of the hotels, or an empty summer camp, since they are closed – if they would be open to it – to housing folks, because I don't want to take people off the street who could be infected, and then infect the residents."

Any new residents, she said, would have to be quarantined for 14 days before coming to The Haven.

"This has been on my heart," she said. "I feel like we are taking good care of the people who are in the shelter, but not the people who are unsheltered. They are the ones who are high risk right now."

At the least, she said, they need portable showers and hand-washing stations.

"We are telling everyone to wash their hands and they don't have a place to wash their hands," she said.

The Sharing House, where the unsheltered normally go for showers, closed its showers due to their location in the center of the building, which would require traffic through the building.

Shelley Webb, executive director of the Sharing House, said the closure of the showers was a "heart ache," since the Sharing House is the only place in Transylvania County where the unsheltered can bathe.

"Typically, like last year in March, we gave out 129 showers," Webb said. "Divide that by 30 and you get an average of five showers a day. In the summer, we provided up to 168 showers a month, and that's like six showers a day."

Webb said they are continuing with financials and food distribution.

She's thinking about how to have showers built on the outside of the building, she said.

Lowery said she too was considering the parking lot of the Sharing House being an adequate space for outside showers and hand washing stations.

At The Haven, Lowery pulled all volunteers as the coronavirus took hold.

"I decided that bringing people in from the outside wasn't a good idea, because our folks are vulnerable here," she said. "We have several older people, and some of those haven't had health care in a long time, and they haven't taken care of themselves. Most people think that folks here have Medicaid, but they don't qualify as a single adult. So, I'm scared for the residents who have major health problems."

Having already noticed residents whom she said exhibited leadership qualities, she deputized them as house manager interns while staff work from home.

Precautions she's taken include putting more space in between bunk beds, providing sheets between the bunk beds and instating a soft lockdown.

"Typically, the shelter closes during the day and folks go out to work on their goals, look for housing, go back to school or go to Meridian (Behavioral Health), but starting on March 15, I started making everyone stay in," Lowery said. "I didn't make it to where they were on lockdown, but I did let the shelter stay open, so that they could stay in if they needed and wanted to. The next week of March 22, only approved outings were allowed, such as going to the grocery store only on Mondays."

Now, the residents' temperatures are being checked, and they are asked three questions: how are you feeling, are you having trouble breathing and do you have a cough?

"We are in the process of putting sheets up in between the bunk beds to get an extra layer because the bunk beds aren't 6 feet apart, but there is not much we can do with 1,200 square feet, however," she said.

A plan is in place, she said, with the help of the Transylvania Public Health and Pisgah Health Foundation, to pull any person who becomes symptomatic and provide quarantine.

"There is a community organization that doesn't want to be named that will house people who are symptomatic," she said. "I'm so grateful for this, because I really didn't know what to do if there were an outbreak in the shelter."

At Bread of Life, Director Michael Collins said the community's soup kitchen is now serving people who aren't homeless on top of the usual visitors.

"To say that we have more traffic, we can't really tell, but there is more of a need because of everyone else, some homeless, and some homebound without work," Collins said. "We are getting a lot of service workers and even a couple of city workers."

Collins said the dining area is closed, and food is being served from the food truck outside.

"We distribute food Monday through Friday, 12 to 2 p.m., and Sunday night, 6 to 7 p.m. here at the facility," he said. "The food truck went out several days a week to different locations, such as Balsam Grove and Rosman; however, it's not going out to these different locations anymore, so we are using it at the facility.

"We are asking those churches we are serving at in the community centers to come down and pick up the meals for those people instead."

The Bread of Life continues to serve everyone, Collins said.

"We don't ask questions," he said.

He said though they are going through more food, he hasn't seen a shortage, but he is asking for fresh fruit, money and masks.

"There are three ways to give: you can give time, you can donate money, or donate food, and right now we can't have volunteers, but you can still give other things," Collins said. "And we've got some grateful people, that's for sure, and there are a lot of people praying for us and helping us out."

Without the "fantastic group of volunteers" the Bread of Life usually has, he said they are running on a "skeleton crew" of one to two people a day, and those people are practicing safe protocols, including maintaining 6 feet of distance.

Visit http://www.breadof to donate.

Donations are also accepted through mail and at the drop-in slot at the Bread of Life library near the kitchen.

The Hunger Coalition of Transylvania County is another food resource comprised of "concerned citizens addressing food insecurity in Transylvania County," who deliver through a "mobile market."

The mobile market's usual schedule is the first Thursday of each month at Davidson River School from 2:45 to 4 p.m .; at Rosman Town Hall on the second Thursday of each month from 2:30 to 4 p.m .; the Sharing House on the third Tuesday of each month from 1 to 2 p.m .; and the Sapphire Community Center on the third Thursday of each month from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Starting on April 9, the coalition will be at the Champion Park parking lot at 2 p.m., according to its Facebook page. There will not be a distribution at Davidson River School. Starting on April 16, the market will be moving to Brevard Community Church every Thursday at 3 p.m.

These will also be a drive-thru.


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