Homelessness can be caused by a shift in situation, steadily sinking skills or simply not having the necessary knowledge for success.
Many shelters such as The ARK in Elkin require improvements to help not only with the immediate need of shelter and food, but also progressions towards independence.
“We expect and love it when guests focus on their mission and needs to move forward in a self-sustaining situation,” said ARK Director Cynthia Cothren.
From the moment of arrival, self-improvement starts including an examination of requirements.
“Usually after someone arrives they will work with Christy Fritz in case management to find out exactly where the immediate needs are of a family or single female,” explained Cothren.
Sometimes those needs cannot be met by a location, which is why the various Yadkin Valley organizations work closely together.
“Depending on space and situations we make referrals on the phone every day for surrounding shelters for homeless, Our Father’s House men’s shelters in Winston-Salem, Shepherds House for homeless in Mount Airy, Hospitality House in Boone, Fifth Street Ministries in Statesville, Wilkesboro and Statesville Domestic Violence shelters, and facilities for substance abuse,” said Cothren.
“We provide safe housing to married couples, families and single women [at The ARK],” said Weekend Manager Lora Evans. “We provide shelter, meals, clothing and other necessities.”
They also provide life training and resources.
“We also provide references for resources to assist guests in overcoming their personal obstacles that are preventing them from obtaining safe housing, whether it be employment, education, job training, transportation, etcetera,” said Evans. “We have recently partnered with Woodforest National Bank to provide classes in finance and budgeting to our guests.”
“Brianna Simpson will instruct once a week on different group and individual issues for finances and managing their household,” said Cothren. “We try to instill budget and financial responsibility with those in The ARK.”
They do this by insisting that residents work on obtaining a regular income.
“If not on disability, guests will be expected to get a job and/or continue their education or job training,” said Cothren.
“We currently have a female who is working on CNA so her family income can increase to a self-sustainable level while her husband works and both children are in school. Grant funding enables us to focus on education for adults to increase their income and tutoring funds to get help where needed to move forward with education for children as well as adults.”
Maintaining these funds are a part of the reason it is important to enforce strict rules.
“Everyone will be expected to work with shelter rules to follow guidelines for everyone to ‘live’ together at The ARK under one roof with respect and as little drama as possible,” said Cothren. “Shelter rules include but are not limited to no food and drinks taken to bedrooms, no drugs or alcohol, no violence by word or deed, no bullying, guidelines for childcare, curfews, etcetera.”
One of the more difficult rules seems to involve finances.
“Enforcement of half income is a shelter rule,” said Cothren. “ We require guests to save half their income for their goal of moving out of The ARK into their own living space.”
This, like many of the requirements at shelters, can be a challenge for those who think of themselves as independent in spite of their need for assistance, especially when it comes to chemical issues.
“Guests are required to manage and maintain their health and well-being through medical appointments, counseling, attend AA meetings or being referred to treatment centers,” said Cothren, clarifying that, “staff maintains and administers all prescribed and over-the-counter medications for guests at The ARK.”
Those guests who may feel overwhelmed by the requirements can be assured of guidance as well as assistance. Not only will staff help direct to resources and complete required paperwork, they also help with transportation, attire and other unexpected needs.
“Most guests at The ARK do not have their own transportation, therefore they apply and arrange transportation through YVEDDI. Guests who do have a car often have maintenance issues with tires, batteries, etcetera,” said Cothren.
These needs are part of why shelters such as The ARK appreciate the participation of businesses and individuals in the community.
“Workforce, Goodwill Career Connections, MVP-Candle Corp, PVH, Pittsburgh Glassworks, local hotels, local restaurants and businesses are the main sources of income for those who work at The ARK,” said Cothren, who is proud of how hard her guests work at improving their lives with some returning to assist as a volunteer.
“Homelessness has no stereotype. At any given time, our adult guests can range in age from 18 to 75 years old,” said Evans. “A major life event, such as the loss of a job, an illness, divorce or even the death of a family member, can leave the average person in sudden need of our help.”
For more information about The ARK or to make a donation, go thearkelkin.org.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.