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Hesed House hoping to open year-round

Staff Writer

The Hesed House of Hope took another step toward year-round service when the Lincolnton City Council agreed to donate up to $5,000 to help fund Lincoln County’s only homeless shelter.

Currently, the Hesed House is a seasonal operation, with its doors opening at the beginning of October and closing at the end of April. The shelter has operated on a limited budget for years, which leaves the county’s homeless population on their own during the scorching summer months when the money at the shelter runs dry.

“Recently, our board took a leap of faith because when we open this year on Oct. 1 our plan is to not close next summer,” Hesed House board of directors chairman and former Lincoln County commissioner Alex Patton said. “It is our intention to be a year-round shelter and that will take a huge commitment from not only our board, but also from the volunteers, staff and community at-large. It’s my belief that it is almost worse to be homeless in the summertime rather than in the winter. Personally, I can probably get warm, but you can only do so much to cool off when you’re stuck outside.”

The Hesed House is much more than just a place to sleep at night for the shelter’s occupants. In addition to a bed, the shelter’s clients are provided with a hot shower, laundry facilities and a meal for dinner and breakfast that is funded and served by volunteers. The staff at the Hesed House also works with clients to obtain housing, mental health counseling and other benefits through the Department of Social Services.

Despite all that the Hesed House provides, the majority of the shelter’s clients are in and out in less than two weeks. The Hesed House provided shelter to 62 men, 33 women and six children from October until May, and of those 101 occupants, 56 stayed two weeks or less. In fact, only 12 clients bunked at the shelter for more than three months during the most recent season.

“The first thing that most people think of when they think about a homeless shelter is folks who just don’t want to work that are looking for a place to live,” Patton said. “The Hesed House is not that place where people just go to and stay. Only two residents spent the entire season at the Hesed House this past year and that says a lot. That’s saying that folks are passing through and the Hesed House is doing what it can do to get those people back on their feet.”

The Hesed House administers a breathalyzer and a drug test to each client before they’re allowed into the shelter. However, because of this, the shelter is ineligible for the majority of federal grant money that helps fund the various homeless shelters across the country.

“We run a tight ship,” Patton said. “The safety of our staff and our residents is paramount, so we don’t put up with not obeying the rules, which includes having drugs and other different things. We had 29 incident reports and eight residents were terminated this past year either for simply not following the rules, or bringing contraband into the shelter. We have children in our shelter and we want to keep it a safe place for them to be.”

It costs $7,500 to keep the Hesed House open for a month and the vast majority of that goes to the shelter’s four staff members and utilities, according to Patton. Local organizations including Amy’s House, United Way of Lincoln County, Lincoln County Veterans Services, Habitat for Humanity and many others have come together to form the Lincoln County Continuum of Care to help raise funds in support of the county’s homeless population.

Patton, who successfully secured a $10,000 donation from the county to the shelter during his final days as a county commissioner, said the Hesed House has enough money on hand at this very moment to keep the shelter open for 10 months.

“Our goal is to give our residents the resources that they need and not just be a shelter,” Patton said. “Is everyone going to be able to get back into society and be a functional adult again? No. Some have mental health issues and it’s just not going to happen, but letting them sleep under a bridge is not the right answer. We need to provide a service to these people and we don’t want to close come next spring.”

Donations can be made to the Hesed House of Hope online through Paypal on the shelter’s website at www.Hesed-Lincoln.org. Contributions can also be mailed to P.O. Box 1633, Lincolnton, N.C. 28093. All donations made to the shelter are tax deductible. Those who want to volunteer or have questions about donations can send an email to HowtohelpHHH@hotmail.com.

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