Plans in the works for Jackson homeless shelter
For the past four years, Jackson County Neighbors in Need has been footing the bill to put people lacking winter shelter up in motel rooms for the night, but the group is on the lookout for the perfect facility to serve as a central shelter before the winter gets much deeper.
“We haven’t been able to get into a shelter facility of our own which we are very much hoping to do because it’s very expensive to lodge people in a motel,” said Veronica Nicholas, co-chair of the Neighbors in Need shelter committee.
Neighbors in Need is a group of volunteers that works to find winter shelter for Jackson County residents without it, including assistance with heating and weatherization. But the organization, which works through Mountain Projects Incorporated, doesn’t have a physical location or year-round assistance for those struggling with homelessness.
“It’s more than just a winter issue, so we would hopefully be able to look at the year-round situation,” said Veronica Nicholas, co-chair of the Neighbors in Need shelter committee. “But our immediate task for the year is to continue our care for the winter months.”
Last winter, Neighbors in Need served 49 people in need of shelter, and the year before that it was 55. That’s a good bit less than the 80 to 90 people the Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter has served each winter since opening in 2008, but Nicholas pointed out that Jackson is a smaller county, population-wise, and that for those who have a need, having shelter available is a non-negotiable resource.
“Just on Friday, we had a family whose power had been turned off and they had two school-age kids, and we were able to resolve that with the support of other emergency agencies,” Nicholas said. “But it’s everywhere, all the time.”
In addition to giving people in need a place to stay, Neighbors in Need also connects them with resources such as Housing and Urban Development funding and Department of Social Services programs through the work of a case manager, whose position is funded by a grant from the Evergreen Foundation.
“We’re not just keeping people overnight,” Nicholas said. “We’re that but also working on helping build their capability to have permanent housing and we’ve had some success through that.”
Help the cause
To donate to Neighbors in Need, mail checks to Jackson Neighbors in Need, care of Mountain Projects, Inc., 25 Schulman Street, Sylva, N.C. 28779.