Continuing the tradition of care, a community meeting was held Thursday at the old Grace Clinic location to discuss the possibilities of the site becoming a men’s shelter.
“We want a place where single men that are having issues, homeless men would go to get their life back on track,” said Kevin Hege, who has spearheaded the project for about four years.
“Anytime we took on a new project in the [National] Guard I told them, ‘Guys we’ve got to crawl, walk, run this thing.’ We’ve got to gather data if we want to get from A to B and eventually [steps will be completed with momentum to get the project accomplished.]”
Hege has been gathering data for years working with fellow veterans through his career at NC Works, his membership in the Captain Mark Garner Post 7794 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other community activities such as the Point-In-Time census of local homeless citizens.
“I used to work with about five to six homeless veterans a year,” said Hege, explaining that he considered making the homeless shelter exclusive to veterans.
“When The ARK and Shepherd’s House in Mount Airy turn away 250 single men a year, then there’s a need for all of it,” said Hege, although he has no intention of the Elkin shelter turning away any veteran.
“Even if we’re at capacity with single men and a homeless veteran comes up, I’ll put him a cot somewhere. I ain’t going to leave him hanging,” he said.
That does not mean that this is a stay-over for transients, but a place where local citizens can find a foundation.
”It’s not going to be a day or night shelter where they come at night and stay and then they get up and leave the next day,” said Hege, explaining that his intention is for this shelter to be a mirror to The ARK, a local shelter which houses women and families.
“The ARK and Shepherd’s House, they are model programs because they get people in there and you go to work. WorkForce put them to work every day and you have to go in agreement with them. They set you up an account so you can save money.”
Hege described how guests at The ARK must set aside half of their income, all of which is returned to them when they are ready to leave, hopefully using the savings to establish permanent housing.
“If you walked in any of the shelters like Fifth Street, Bethesda, The ARK, Shepherd‘s House, they’ll help you [complete] the HUD packet and try to locate you a landlord that will work with you,” said Hege, noting how just one service of the shelters is helping individuals connect with other available programs.
“There’s a lot of stuff in this community as far as free programs and support that’s already in place. This is just another program,” said Hege, “another way Elkin is showing that our community, we’ve got it all. We got the arts going on, we’ve got stuff to do and compassion. We embrace people who need help.”
Citizens who would like to embrace the local men’s shelter are invited to join Hege at 170 Claremont Road to tour the potential facility on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.