This article is copyright 2017 StarNews.

Advocates: Brunswick County needs homeless shelter

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.

Glenna Clemmons used to be homeless, but has since been rehoused with the help of local nonprofit organizations, including Brunswick County Streetreach (PHOTO: Chip Ellis/StarNews)

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.”

The county government, through the Brunswick County Public Housing Agency, administers the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.

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.

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.

Moving forward

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.

Joe Staton sorts the clothing racks at the Brunswick Family Assistance thrift store in Shallotte. Staton was homeless before receiving a leg up from Brunswick Family Assistance. (PHOTO: Chip Ellis/StarNews)

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.”

Not having an emergency shelter is where Brunswick County “struggles a bit,” said Cecelia Peers of the Tri-County Homeless Interagency Council

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.

Jerry Rothenberg and Barbara Serafin, co-presidents of the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition, discuss the problem of homelessness in Brunswick County and ways that the Coalition helps those affected. (PHOTO: StarNews)

“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.

Calabash Elks donate to Brunswick County Homeless Coalition

Article copyright (c) 2017 StarNews.

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.

Making the presentation of an $800 check to the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition on behalf of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee of Elks Lodge 2679 in Calabash were, from left, Janet Heinis, VAC Member; John Corbett, co-chair of the VAC; Jerry Rotherberg and Barbara Serafin, co-presidents of BCHC; Kathy Cyrulik, member of BCHC; David Cyrulik, BCHC Treasurer; Gerald “Jerry” Kimble, co-chair of the VAC; Donna Kozlowski, VAC Member; and Austin Sammon, chairman of the VAC. [CONTRIBUTED]
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.

Those interested in receiving Emergency Assistance or finding information on how to help, call them at 1-888-519-5362, or visit http://www.BrunswickCountyHomelessCoalition.com.

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 si.cantwell@starnewsonline.com.

After attending a meeting convened by Yvonne Hatcher to update the Local Coordinated Transportation Plan, several people in attendance decided they would meet regularly to learn more and to advocate for public transportation in Brunswick County. Members of the public transportation advocacy group include Tom Horan, South Brunswick Interchurch Council; Barbara Serafin, Brunswick County Homeless Coalition; Fred Stephens, Brunswick Family Assistance; and Roy Tucker, Southport Oak Island Interchurch Fellowship.

The group met on April 11 with Yvonne Hatcher, Director, Brunswick Transit System, Inc, the non-profit formed to provide public transportation in Brunswick

Members listen intently at a spring 2013 BCHC meeting (Photo: BCHC)

County. The group’s consensus after this meeting was to emphasize development of a new comprehensive Community Transportation Service Plan. The State of NC says that Community Transportation Service plans should be updated every five years; however, the Brunswick County plan has not been updated since it was developed in 1996. Yvonne said that the Department of Transportation official with whom she spoke in early April said that Brunswick County is third or fourth on the list of counties for updating the plan, that they now have three consulting firms under contract to update the county plans, and that work on the Brunswick County plan should begin in late 2013 or early 2014.

The group will meet with Don Eggert, Director, Rural Transportation Planning, Cape Fear Council of Governments on April 25. Don facilitated the meeting to update the Local Coordinated Transportation Plan. After meeting with him, the group may meet with officials involved in public transportation and transportation planning in preparation for meetings with Senator Bill Rabon and Representative Frank Iler.

This article was originally published by the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition in the “Currents” newsletter, Spring 2013 (Vol. 2, No. 1) edited by Kitty Kesler and published by Susie Kubley.

Brunswick County Homeless Coalition (BCHC) participated in the 2013 Brunswick County Volunteer Fair & Expo and the Service Awards Ceremony. The fair was held April 17, 2013 from 3-7 p.m. at the Odell Williamson Auditorium on the Brunswick Community College campus. This event was held during National

BCHC members Barbara Serafin, Wade Fulmer, Shirley Wyzga-Johnson, Diana & Bill Hadesty, James Polino, and Callie Spidle were present at the BCHC table (Photo: BCHC)

Volunteer Week.

More than 35 non-profit and community agencies serving Brunswick County were on hand to meet with the public and promote local volunteer opportunities. BCHC members Barbara Serafin, Wade Fulmer, Shirley Wyzga-Johnson, Diana & Bill Hadesty, James Polino, and Callie Spidle were present at the BCHC table to advocate for the needs of the homeless and provide information. Other BCHC members in attendance were Fred Stephens manning the Brunswick Family Assistance table and T.K. Nowell manning the Brunswick County Sheriff’s crime prevention table.

The event was an outstanding opportunity for other non-profits and area residents to hear the homeless message and how they can make a difference. The BCHC members also talked to other non-profits and government agencies about their volunteer programs and how they could partner with each other. The program also included a formal awards ceremony that recognized the NC Governor’s Award for Outside Volunteer Service recipients.

This article was originally published by the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition in the “Currents” newsletter, Spring 2013 (Vol. 2, No. 1) edited by Kitty Kesler and published by Susie Kubley.

The Brunswick County Homeless Coalition (BCHC) is taking their message on the road. As part of our mission to educate and raise awareness concerning the problems of the neediest in Brunswick County, we have developed the Coalition Ambassadors program. Eight BCHC members were trained on April 25 to be Ambassadors. They will travel in pairs to give presentations at civic and faith-based organizations throughout the county.
Using a computer-projector slide show, ambassadors will explain the mission and vision of BCHC, past events that we have hosted, where we are headed, and how

Using a computer-projector slide show, ambassadors will explain the mission and vision of BCHC and how the audience can get involved. (Photo: BCHC)

the audience can get involved. They will distribute a fact sheet highlighting the issues surrounding poverty and homelessness in the county and answer questions.

Many residents don’t recognize that there are homeless people in the county or how many families teeter on the brink of homelessness. Coalition Ambassadors is a program designed to dispel these myths. It is hoped that by shining a light on the problems of the neediest more people will become involved in trying to solve those problems.

County groups and organizations who wish to take advantage of the program can contact BCHC at 1-888-519-5362.

This article was originally published by the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition in the “Currents” newsletter, Spring 2013 (Vol. 2, No. 1) edited by Kitty Kesler and published by Susie Kubley.

Resea Willis of BHO gives the members of BCHC an overview of programs to help the recently homeless and those attempting to buy affordable housing. (Photo: BCHC)
John Allen, Lloyd Gladden, Kitty Kesler, Jim Polino, and Lynda Marlowe enjoy Ms. Willis’ presentation. (Photo: BCHC)

Resea Willis, CEO and President, Brunswick Housing Opportunities, Inc. (BHO), was guest speaker on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 at the monthly meeting of the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition (BCHC). One of BCHC’s goals is to advocate for transitional and permanent housing. The membership had an opportunity to hear how since 2007 the founder of BHO has focused on creating policy changes, building affordable housing, and educating homebuyers on how to purchase affordable housing.

The mission of BHO is to EDUCATE consumers to use existing resources as a platform to launch their economic independence; EQUIP consumers by giving them access with training to tools and resources previously out of the reach; EMPOWER consumers to use their training and preparation to take advantage of opportunities; and EXPAND dreams into possibilities and realities. At present a work group of BCHC including members John Allen, Mark Filipovic, Bill Hadesty, Fred Thorne, Roy Tucker, and Barbara Serafin, have met monthly to educate themselves about affordable housing and advocate for its presence in Brunswick County.

BCHC’s Mission to advocate for the homeless and those in need involves facilitating resources to meet those needs. Our vision includes decreasing the incidence of chronic and transitional homelessness. Two of the goals of the BCHC work group are to encourage landlords to list affordable rentals on capefearhousing.org and to educate those seeking affordable housing as well as educating those who are assisting others to seek affordable housing. The Brunswick County Association of Realtors has been contacted and we have discussed listing affordable housing on capefear.org and learning the specifics of the program. Calling 2-1-1, a statewide resource for information confirmed that when inquiring about affordable housing, capefearhousing.org and nchousingsearch.org were given as contacts. BCHC mailed information about nchousingsearch.org, a free service to find and list housing, to many apartment complexes. The above mentioned resources could help the seekers and those assisting the seekers to find affordable housing to meet their specific needs including amenities, neighborhood features, and requirements to be met in order to be eligible for housing. Maintaining contact with Resea Willis and BHO and connecting with the services and resources available will strengthen our commitment to the mission and vision of BCHC.

This article was originally published by the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition in the “Currents” newsletter, Spring 2013 (Vol. 2, No. 1) edited by Kitty Kesler and published by Susie Kubley.

Since Brunswick County does not provide a shelter for the homeless, Streetreach has organized a program in which various churches host the homeless on a rotating basis. The training for the Streetreach Interfaith Winter Night Program was held on October 20, at the New Life Christian Fellowship with Pastor Bobby Norton in attendance. They were the host church for the first week of this year’s program. Forty-nine volunteers attended the training.

Nine BCHC members pose by the cots which were set up to demonstrate the three stages of preparing the cots for the night shelter guests. (Photo: BCHC)

 

The program began with a light lunch provided by the church. Then Donna Phelps conducted the training by explaining the rules that govern the program. Using Brunswick County Homeless Coalition president, Barbara Serafin, to play the role of a homeless person arriving at the shelter, Donna walked volunteers through the registration process. She showed residents how to handle various situations that might occur such as a guest arriving intoxicated. Several folks who participated in last year’s program shared their experiences.

Donna showed the cots which have been purchased for each site and the bedding that is provided. In churches that have shower facilities, hotel sized shampoo and toiletries are provided for each guest Many attending the training came because their church will serve as a host site. Others came to learn about the program and how they can best help host churches. Attendees agreed that the program was very informative and feel better prepared to meet the needs of the homeless.

 

Originally published by the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition in the “Currents” newsletter, Fall 2012 (Vol. 1, No. 3) edited by Kitty Kesler and published by Susie Kubley.

Circles of Support is a part of The 10 Year Plan to end Chronic Homelessness and Reduce Homelessness in the Cape Fear Region, a United Way of the Cape Fear Area program that was started in Wilmington in 2009. This is a group mentoring program for individuals and families emerging from chronic homelessness.

Eleven Brunswick County citizens–eight of whom are BCHC members–were trained as mentors in the Circles of Support program. (Photo: BCHC)

 

Qualified volunteers willing to commit to being mentors for twelve months are trained by Julia Steffen, Projects Manager. The Brunswick County Homeless Coalition (BCHC) coordinated to have a training session in Brunswick County. Eleven Brunswick County citizens, eight of whom are BCHC members, completed the required training on Sept. 15th. When they have passed a background check, they will become the first such mentoring group in the county.

The training session provided potential mentors with instruction on how to help and support formerly homeless people with tasks necessary to stay housed including money management, organizational skills, job search, time management, and transportation. Mentors also provide a social support network, giving of themselves and their time. Mentors play the most important role in keeping someone emerging from chronic homelessness off the streets and in housing.

Lora Moree, Director of Brunswick Family Assistance, concluded the training by providing information about the housing available in Brunswick County and a basic description of the clients presently needing mentors.

 

Originally published by the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition in the “Currents” newsletter, Fall 2012 (Vol. 1, No. 3) edited by Kitty Kesler and published by Susie Kubley.

 

 

On November 10th, 2012, Brunswick County Homeless Coalition (BCHC) joined forces with other groups throughout the nation to raise awareness of those who are hungry and homeless. BCHC sponsored the First Annual Hunger and Homeless Banquet at Seaside Methodist Church, Sunset Beach. A soup and water lunch was served to 108 participants representing faith-based ministries,churches, nonprofit organizations, and concerned citizens. Rita Canfield opened the day with a prayer. A fact sheet shared with the attendees reported that in Brunswick County 10,000 people were living in extreme poverty, and 23,593 families sought assistance from food pantries. During the 2011-2012 school year, 61% of the students in Brunswick County Public Schools received free or reduced lunches. From January through the end of June 2012, Brunswick County StreetReach provided emergency shelter for 89 people and Good Shepherd Center in Wilmington provided emergency shelter for an additional 64 people living in Brunswick County.

2012: the First Annual Hunger and Homeless Banquet

Guest speakers enlightened us. Fran Salone-Pelletier, religion columnist for the Brunswick Beacon, was obviously moved when she spoke on her reflection of the book of the Hebrew prophet, Amos, as it applied to the problem of hunger and homelessness in Brunswick County. Here are a few excerpts from her talk. “Do I grieve over the ruin of my brothers and sisters who have nothing but the clothes on their backs? I have never known the sorrow of being the object of disgust or the subject of judgment based on my inability to declare an address. I have never known what it is like to have people either stare at me because I am poorly clothed and dirty.” At the conclusion of her talk, Fran reminded everyone, “If one person remains homeless, all of us are homeless. That’s the price we pay. It’s the cost of living as God’s people. It’s what happens when we respond to the call, Come follow me.” Simone Weil states, “Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.”

Joyce Beatty, Student Support Services Brunswick School System, presented the federal legislation that supports children in the educational setting who have been classified as homeless. McKinney Vento allows schools to identify these children while making sure they are not singled out and treated differently in any way. Social workers connect schools with community resources for families who lack a regular nighttime residence, live with another family, live in a hotel or motel, o r live in a campsite, bus, or park. Each of the schools in Brunswick County has a liaison in place to assist with identification and support.

Donna Phelps of Brunswick StreetReach, Inc. shared information about the interfaith night shelter program. Currently night shelters are operational during the coldest months of the year: November, December, January, and February. Sixteen churches partner with them to support the host sites. She discussed the rules guests of the shelter must follow and the agreement to comply they must sign. Anyone found in violation of the rules is asked to leave the site. A sample of the cots and coverings used was displayed. Volunteers assisting with the night shelter program received training and have opportunities to supply food and needed supplies, and to assist at the shelters.

Poems and prayers written by the homeless and for the homeless were read by Barbara Serafin. The life journey of a few homeless people was shared and the support given by volunteere and the resources available in Brunswick County were identified. A person leaving the homeless scene and becoming productive and independent again, encouraged those present to be sensitive and supportive to those trying to end homelessness. A prayer written by someone who was once homeless reads: “Lord, help my brothers/ I do not know their names/ people call them homeless./ Help them to know their worth,/ and live an abundant life.”

Brent Tyndall, musician and songwriter, played the keyboard and sang songs giving the participants a time for reflection. At the end of the program the participants were invited to visit the educational displays and learn about the resources available in Brunswick County. There was time for fellowship and exploring volunteer opportunities.

The written and verbal feedback BCHC received about the program was extremely positive and most comments addressed the amount of new knowledge gained and the opportunity for fellowship. BCHC, together with their partners, looks forward to continuing to serve as an advocate for the homeless and to increase awareness of issues concerning poverty in Brunswick County.

Members of Creative Spirit, crochet and knitting group, (that meets every Friday at St. Brendan Catholic Church) donated nearly two hundred “made with love” hats and scarves to Brunswick County Homeless Coalition (BCHC) and Brunswick County StreetReach (BCSTR). Pastor Ryszard Kolodziej, (center) new Pastor of St. Brendan, blessed all the handmade items before Eileen Brown, Creative Spirit member (standing far left) who coordinated efforts with Lynn Yencik, BCHC Volunteer Director (standing far right), presented Gary Phelps and Donna Phelps, Vice President and President BCSTR (far left back row) and Dianne Cherry, BCSTR Board member (pictured next to Lynn) with the items that will become comfort from the cold formally men, women, and children in our area this winter.

Creative Spirit, with their “made with love” hats and scarves donated to BCHC (Photo: BCHC)

Originally published by the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition in the “Currents” newsletter, Fall 2012 (Vol. 1, No. 3) edited by Kitty Kesler and published by Susie Kubley.