Article copyright (c) 2019 The Brunswick Beacon. The Brunswick Beacon is your source for local news, sports, events and information in Brunswick County, North Carolina and surrounding areas.
By Laura Lewis, Reporter
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
CALABASH —A roomful of officials and volunteers turned out during Saturday’s cold, blustery weather to talk about hunger and homelessness in Brunswick County and what needs to be done about it.
Betsy Duarte, direct aid committee leader for the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition, which orchestrates the annual gathering, outlined a fact sheet at the Nov. 16 gathering showing in 2017 in Brunswick County, 11.5 percent of residents had an income below the poverty level, a decrease from 14.3 percent in 2016, and 17.4 percent of children under 18 live in poverty, a decrease from 19.3 percent in 2016. Four percent of people 65 and older live in poverty, down from 8.7 percent the prior year.
Paul Witmer of BCHC, representing local American Legion posts (L)
and Charles Jackson, Director of Operations and Outreach for
Brunswick Family Assistance address the Eighth Annual Hunger and
Homeless Banquet and Soup Luncheon in Calabash on Nov. 16th on
the topic of Veteran services. Photo Credit: J. Johnson, BCHC.
Brunswick County Commissioner Randy Thompson spoke about the Brunswick Guarantee offering every student an opportunity to receive at least two years of education free of charge “so they never experience some of the things y’all are having to deal with today.”
“The more we educate the community, it makes all the difference,” he said[, pointing] out a growing amount of affordable housing complexes going up or in the planning stage. “That’s something we need to continue to concentrate on,” said Thompson, who also read a proclamation designating the week of Nov. 16-24 as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
N.C. Rep. Frank Iler said he supports affordable housing.
“The bad news is the budget has been vetoed,” he said, lauding affordable housing efforts off N.C. 904 and a similar public-private partnership that is to be duplicated in Calabash.
Pat Rourke, director of McKinney-Vento Homeless Education for Brunswick County Schools, said “some people just don’t believe that we have a homeless problem,” citing growing numbers to show otherwise. In the 2018-19 school year, 432 students, plus 25 siblings, were identified under the MV program compared to 355 and 38 in 2017-18. “Don’t think that our numbers are not going to climb this year,” she said, adding there is another peak after Christmas when families may have spent more money than they could afford and are evicted when they can’t pay the rent.
‘Making generosity count’
BFA executive director Stephanie Bowen, speaking on the theme of “making generosity count,” said there has been a surge of displacement and food insecurity since the hurricanes.
LELAND — Harold Jones, a member of the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition, spoke at last year’s annual Hunger and Homeless Banquet.
At this year’s event in Leland on Saturday, he provided an update.
“Last year I talked about being homeless. Now I’m here to tell you today I am a homeowner in Southport,” he said.
Jones said he is working three jobs to reach a combined 40 hours a week.
“If you want things in life you have to work for them,” he said. “Nobody owes you anything.”
Jones said he once had a “poor, pitiful me” attitude but has learned to be positive.
The coalition brought its sixth annual Hunger and Homeless Banquet to the Brunswick senior center in Leland on Nov. 18.
Homelessness prevention organizers and volunteers met to share information on prevention and assistance efforts.
The gathering also included first-person accounts from people who have been homeless and received help from the homelessness prevention community.
Following an opening prayer from Fran Salone-Pelletier, Jones sang “Amazing Grace” as part of the invocation.
Joe Staton talked about the stigma that comes with being homeless, which makes it difficult for some people to seek or accept help.
“People can be judgmental. If they see a homeless person they think he did something wrong,” Staton said.
Staton said he had a place where he was living and was in a relationship with a woman with two children. When their relationship ended, he said, he felt he did the right thing by leaving so she had a place to live. But it left him without any housing options.
Brunswick Family Assistance helped him get into an apartment, Staton said.
“One day it was a struggle scraping by,” he said. “The next day I was able to make a plan for the future because I had a base.”
BFA executive director Stephanie Bowen said her agency helps assist people who are 130 percent below the poverty line. She gave an example of a family of four living on $25,000 a year.
In addition offering assistance with utilities, rent, medications and emergency shelter, Bowen said BFA offers a financial literacy program to teach budgeting and tracking expenses and a job skills training course to help people search for jobs and plan for applying and interviewing for them.
Bowen introduced Jaye Cuffee, who took the BFA financial literacy course when he learned his father owed $20,000 in taxes on the home Cuffee moved into with his wife and five children. He said he learned how to stay on top of bills, clip coupons and the importance of learning not to live paycheck to paycheck.
Brunswick County commissioner Pat Sykes attended the banquet to present a proclamation from the county board recognizing the week of Nov. 11-19 as National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.
Sykes said she grew up in a family of eight children with an alcoholic father and her family was homeless at times.
“Back then our church family provided for us. Back then I had many hand-me-downs, but I’ve come a long way because of people like you,” Sykes said, thanking the volunteers and organizers.
Cecelia Peers, administrator for the Homeless Continuum of Care, which covers Brunswick, Pender and New Hanover counties, spoke about its efforts to get an accurate picture of homelessness in the tri-county area and help the homeless find transitional and permanent housing. It tracks homelessness through the school systems, an annual nationwide point in time count, a homeless assessment report and internal database.
Peers said homelessness people are those living in a place not meant for human habitation, emergency shelters, transitional housing or exiting a temporary residence.
Peers reported 400 Brunswick County students were identified as homeless from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.
The last point in time count, conducted Jan. 25, identified 27 homeless people.
New Hanover County reported 76 people came to its shelter from Brunswick County in 2016. And 133 women and children were served in the New Hanover County domestic violence shelter from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016.
In addition to existing shelters and resources, Peers said, specific programs like Preventative Diversion can provide funds to help people remain in housing they already have so they don’t become homeless. A Rapid Re-Housing program offers short-term financing to help put people in housing as quickly as possible and a Homeless Veteran Strategy Team can help provide veterans with affordable housing.
The keynote speaker, Terry Allebaugh of the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, discussed programs like Rapid Re-Housing, his work with military and veterans’ affairs and the change in methods for providing assistance.
Where once the objective was to get homeless people housing-ready, the coalition now strives to find stable housing as soon as possible and then provide support to help them be successful, Allebaugh said. The federal objective for ending homelessness would return a homeless person to permanent housing within 30 days of beginning assistance.
While it sounds over-ambitious if the effort cuts the average amount of time a person is homeless from 67 days to 60 days, Allebaugh said, they are seeing an improvement to build on.
“We want to define homelessness as rare, brief and non-recurring,” he said.
Allebaugh also recommended groups involved in homelessness assistance get the word out by organizing a community summit and declaring their own mission to end homelessness. They could also prioritize the needs for the area, like an emergency shelter for Brunswick County.
Allebaugh encouraged the attendees to take the efforts public by making presentation to the county, city and town councils and ask former homeless people to share their stories.
“It is powerful. There is nothing like a person’s story to share this information,” he said.
Homelessness resources in Brunswick County
Hope Harbor Home is for single women and women with children who are victims of domestic violence to assists in moving on to permanent housing.
Gateway Landing, which offers a 12-month, faith-based residential program for men with life-controlling issues like substance abuse.
Brunswick County Streetreach, which coordinates interfaith sheltering during winter and access to shelter during summer.
Brunswick County Homeless Coalition assists county residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with resources and crisis support.
Brunswick Family Assistance helps low-income residents with food, clothing, emergency financial assistance and access to health services and other resources.
A Housing Crisis Hotline (910-444-4998) is available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays to screen people for diversion or shelter
The Brunswick Homeless Task Force committee meets at 9 a.m. the third Monday of the month in the second floor training room at the Brunswick County Administration Building. Meetings are open to anyone in Brunswick County who is interested in preventing and ending homelessness.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – About a hundred people gathered at the Brunswick Center in Leland for the Sixth Annual Hunger & Homeless Banquet Saturday.
Community leaders, experts, formerly homeless people, and concerned citizens were among the attendees.
The purpose of the event was to educate the community about homelessness, but also to raise funds for the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition, which put on the event.
According to data provided at the event, there were 322 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in Brunswick County in a count January 2017.
The Brunswick County Homeless Coalition assists about 300 people struggling with homelessness every year, according to the Co-President of the coalition.
Volunteer Joe Staton faced homelessness four years ago, but eventually got back onto his feet. Now, Staton volunteers with the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition.
“When I moved to Brunswick County I was homeless. And through a process of getting help… I was able to get an apartment, somewhere to live,” said Staton. “So now I volunteer to try to give back something and help the ones who still need it.”
BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Ending homelessness and hunger in one county is the mission for the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition.
This weekend the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition held their 6th Annual Hunger and Homeless Banquet and Soup Luncheon.
This event was to educate and raise awareness about poverty-related problems.
The event was free and hosted at the Brunswick Center at Leland.
The banquet and soup luncheon invited formerly homeless individuals to talk about their past struggles and learn about solutions.
Joe Staton who now volunteers with the coalition used to be homeless and said the help he received from them was life changing.
“A lot of people don’t know that Brunswick County has a homeless population at all, but they do and we work directly with them. When I came to Brunswick County I was homeless, and I received the help and I know there’s a lot of people out there needing it,” Staton said.
The Brunswick County Homeless Coalition is made up of volunteers and wants to continue to educate the community about the hunger and homeless problems in the area.
ATMC TV’s November 2017 “Our Hometown” show features, during its latter segment, an interview with Paul Witmer and Joe Staton of the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition. The subject matter covers the definition of homelessness, aspects of our homelessness problem with respect to Veterans and others, and the Coalition’s annual event on November 18th, 2017, spotlighting awareness of and solutions to poverty- and homelessness-related problems here in Brunswick County.
Our Hometown, hosted by Jim MacCallum, features in-depth stories about local people, places and events in Brunswick and Columbus Counties. Our Hometown airs every day at 8:30am and 7:00pm on ATMC TV.
The Homeless Coalition appreciates very much this opportunity to raise awareness, and we give a heartfelt thanks to Jim and to ATMC TV.
Your turn: National Hunger & Homeless Awareness week
Thursday, November 9th 2017, 1:18 pm EST (Source: WECT). Copyright 2017 Raycom Media. All Rights Reserved.
By: Joe Staton, Brunswick County Homeless Coalition
How many persons are homeless in Brunswick County?
How do you define homelessness?
How can we help homeless veterans find housing?
Is there a single path to end homelessness?
What is rapid rehousing and how does it work?
Are there really more than 400 homeless students in the Brunswick County School system?
Does Brunswick County need a homeless shelter?
The answers to some of these questions may alarm you. National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week is held each year during the week prior to Thanksgiving.
The Brunswick County Homeless Coalition takes this opportunity to enhance our efforts to raise awareness about the issue and what is being done locally to work toward meeting the needs, advocating for and working toward ending homelessness.
The best thing we can do is get more people involved.
Please go to the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition website at brunswickhomeless.com to learn how you can get involved. While you are visiting our site, please consider registering for our annual event on Saturday, November 18.
As we move toward the Thanksgiving season, and start to count our own blessings, please consider sharing some of that compassion with our neighbors who aren’t as fortunate as us. Together, we can make a difference.
Advocates: Brunswick County needs homeless shelter
By Makenzie Holland StarNews Staff
Posted May 24, 2017 at 10:52 AMUpdated May 24, 2017 at 10:59 AM
Several local nonprofit organizations and churches care for Brunswick County’s homeless population.
BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Glenna Clemmons’ single bedroom apartment has one poster hanging on the wall. A small couch and recliner take up most of the living room, while an old TV sits nearby.
Though her apartment is small, Clemmons values the luxury.
For 20 years, Clemmons worked in commercial fishing with her boyfriend, a life she described as hard but rewarding.
Seven years ago, Clemmons’ boyfriend died and she lost everything. After a lifetime of labor, she became homeless.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 14.3 percent of Brunswick County’s 126,953 residents live in poverty. When people become homeless or face eviction, they often turn to nonprofit organizations for assistance. The county government relies heavily on nonprofits to take care of the homeless since the county has no permanent emergency shelter.
Nonprofits are funded differently, though most rely on charitable donations, grants and other contributions to function. These groups and a network of local churches care for the county’s homeless on a daily basis, though the strain of handling numerous cases each day is beginning to show.
Need for services
When Clemmons no longer had a place to call home, she traveled and stayed with family in Tennessee, California and Louisiana before returning to Southport. With nowhere else to turn, Clemmons said somebody told her about Brunswick County Streetreach. The organization and founder, Donna Phelps, helped her into an apartment.
Phelps said the lack of available housing options for the number of people she deals with daily that are in a crisis situation highlights a need for more options.
“This county has reached a point now that there needs to be some type of emergency shelter,” Phelps said. “There really does. I’m not saying a full-time shelter because honestly most of our people are not chronic homeless, they’re situational homeless, under-employed, evicted, or victims of domestic violence, we don’t have the chronic homeless like Wilmington has. So our situation is really different, but we still need some type of recourse other than just calling us.”
Brunswick Family Assistance, another nonprofit agency, handles at least one family or individual a week that is homeless, said Stephanie Bowen, executive director. She said the agency handles multiple calls on a daily basis from families that are at risk of becoming homeless because they can’t afford rent, which averages $846 a month in the county.
BFA has a rental assistance program and the organization will often facilitate a landlord/tenant agreement to keep the individual or families in their home.
Bowen said emergency sheltering is another challenge entirely.
“As far as people seeking emergency shelter, the biggest limitation we have here in Brunswick County is we do not have a homeless shelter,” Bowen said. “So what we typically do is we try to divert them from having to go over to Wilmington because most of the time that’s not an option for people…if they have a job or school here, they can’t get to Wilmington’s shelter, so we try to find other options for them.”
The agency often exhausts resources when trying to find suitable housing for people in need.
“A lot of times what we find is there’s not a whole lot we can do,” Bowen said.
From Nov. 1 to March 1, Phelps relies heavily on a motel system that charges a discounted rate to house the homeless.
This past winter Streetreach had between 11 to 17 different individuals each week staying in the motels.
Over the summer months, Phelps relies on churches that open their doors and allow the homeless to stay overnight.
When Streetreach began sheltering in 2011, Phelps had 12 churches to work with.
“That worked out beautifully, each one housed for a week then we moved to the next site,” she said.
As the years went by, Phelps said the number of churches willing to house the homeless dwindled. Now, she only has four churches willing to provide shelter, though several offer food, clothing and other amenities.
Joe Staton has lived in Brunswick County since 2012. He moved in with his aunt and uncle in Ocean Isle Beach after living in a homeless shelter in Florence, South Carolina.
Staton became homeless after he and his wife separated.
“I didn’t have anywhere to stay because I was struggling with PTSD, trying to get military disability,” he said. “I didn’t have a job, any income at all. So I found a homeless shelter that would take me in just because I was a veteran.”
Staton eventually received assistance from BFA, which set him up in an apartment and with counselors who helped him with social reintegration.
Had there not been a transitional shelter available for him in South Carolina, Staton said he would’ve been “sleeping under a bridge.”
She leads the Brunswick Homeless Task Force, created about a year ago, which has been bringing different agencies in the area together, including county government, to coordinate and understand the size and scope of homelessness in Brunswick County.
Staton, Bowen, Phelps and Barbara Serafin, co-president of the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition, cited the need for an emergency shelter, as well as more transitional and affordable housing options, to prevent homelessness and have an emergency resource in a crisis situation.
“We need to let people who are in trouble, who are homeless or at risk from homelessness, know that there’s somewhere for them to stay,” Staton said. “That we care about them and they’re important and still a part of our society.”
Reporter Makenzie Holland can be reached at 910-343-2371 or Makenzie.Holland@StarNewsOnline.com.
The Homeless Coalition serves as an advocate for the homeless by increasing awareness and by providing resources to meet their needs.
By Michael Trescak Your Voice Correspondent
CALABASH (May 15, 2017) — The Veteran’s Affairs Committee of the Calabash Elks Lodge 2679 recently made an $800 cash donation to the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition. The Coalition was selected because they serve, among others, our increasing population of homeless veterans in Brunswick County.
The Homeless Coalition is a group of volunteers from faith-based ministries, non-for-profit organizations, local agencies, and concerned citizens coming together for the greater good of Brunswick County’s homeless and in-need population. The mission of the Coalition is to serve as an advocate for the homeless and those in need by increasing awareness and education in Brunswick County, and by exploring, promoting, recruiting, facilitating, and providing resources to meet these needs.
The mission of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, Lodge 2679, is to provide occasional funding, fraternal activities and general support for our local veterans, various veteran’s programs, and our military located throughout Southeastern North Carolina, as well as for our retired and wounded warriors in the Fort Bragg area of Fayetteville, and Camp LeJeune area in Jacksonville.
For more information about other ways our Elks Lodge supports our veterans and the military community, http://www.CalabashElks.Org and click on the Veterans Affairs tab.
The StarNews welcomes and will consider publishing Your Voice articles contributed by readers, nonprofits and clubs. Community Page submissions should be 300 words and accompanied by a good-quality photograph. Contact Community News Editor Si Cantwell at 343-2364 or email@example.com.