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Ministries gear up to convert state prison

fr prisonPlans are moving forward to convert the old state prison in Hazelwood to a resource center for the hurting, homeless and recently incarcerated. The trio of Christian ministries teaming up to make that happen are already thinking about how they’re going to raise the estimated $300,000 they’ll need to get the facilities up to snuff, but they’re waiting on an official contract to kick their fundraising efforts into high gear.  

“There are no major obstacles on any of the three buildings,” said Nick Honerkamp, founder and director of Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter.  “It will take some money to make some repairs, but nothing that is a deal breaker at all.”

That information came out during a meeting Honerkamp and the leaders of Open Door Ministries and Next Step Ministries held with Haywood County Manager Ira Dove last week. The group discussed the state of the facilities and Dove shared his plans to survey the land and buildings to make sure that everyone is clear on what is there and what condition it is in.

“Our next steps are to get a survey of the property that lays out who’s going to be in what building and then develop a memorandum of understanding,” said David Teague, public information officer for Haywood County. 

Honerkamp hopes to have the MOU approved sometime in June, and the ministries are aiming for a Nov. 1 move-in date. Getting there will take plenty of work and plenty of money, so the organizations are looking into grants and getting started on applications while they await final approval from the county. 

“Based on our conversation [with Dove], we got all the details from them to put the draft [MOU] together,” Honerkamp said. 

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The MOU would require approval from county commissioners, but that shouldn’t be a problem. 

“That project has our support without question,” said Commission Chairman Mark Swanger. “What we’re working toward is a memorandum of understanding so everyone goes into it knowing what exactly the respective responsibilities are. That makes it a healthier relationship moving forward.”

Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter, Open Door Ministries and Next Step Ministries are all separate groups with separate functions, but they’ve been eyeing the abandoned state prison for a while as a way to maximize their joint effectiveness. 

Currently, the homeless shelter picks those in need of a warm place to stay up from their free dinner at Open Door and takes them to the dormitory at Camp New Life for sleep, safety and worship — but only during the coldest six months of the year. Open Door serves free meals and offers Bible studies and worship — but only at Frog Level. And Next Step ministries helps people recently released from incarceration readjust to life outside the jailhouse walls — but they only have a limited impact because they don’t have an actual live-in facility to work with. 

By centralizing their efforts in the same compound, the groups would be able to share the resources they all have in common, help each other in the areas where their missions overlap and expand their capacity to help those in need. 

“This is going to be the project,” Honerkamp said, “and I can’t wait until Nov. 1.”



Give a hand

The three ministries are looking for funds to make their project a reality. Because they are separate entities, donors must give to the specific ministries individually by the avenues listed below. 

• Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter: P.O. Box 1272, Waynesville NC, 28786, or

• Open Door Ministries: 32 Commerce St., Waynesville NC, 28786.

• Next Step Ministries, Inc: P.O Box 94 Waynesville NC, 28786.

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