Churches in Alamance County are doubling their efforts to house the homeless through a $600,000 project to build a new night shelter.
About 60 churches of various denominations are helping to build the Allied Churches Ministry Building in downtown Burlington. The shelter, which will open next summer at Fisher and Trade streets, will provide beds for about 40 men and women, plus an apartment for a family.``You've got the homeless wherever you go now,' said Jack Hunter, senior minister at Front Street United Methodist Church in Burlington. Hunter is the chairman of the building and fund-raising committees.
``These people were sleeping in cardboard boxes. I think the community of churches felt the need to speak to the growing issue of human needs.'
The Allied Churches Ministry runs a shelter that can house only 17 people. The new 12,000-square-foot building will sit behind the original shelter, which will be torn down when the new one opens, Hunter said.
The churches have raised most of the money to build the shelter, but still need another $50,000 or $60,000 to furnish it.
When it opens, the shelter also will provide office space for several projects, including the CROP walk, literacy programs, the Allied Churches Ministry, vocational classes and dispute settlement counseling. And Hunter hopes the building eventually will house the Good Shepherd Soup Kitchen, now off Main Street downtown.
The dream of building a homeless shelter started about four years ago, when the Allied Churches bought the old police station from the city and turned it into its current shelter. At first, organizers thought they would renovate the old building, but they found that tearing it down and starting over would be more efficient.
Hunter thinks it works out even better this way, because the churches probably would have closed the shelter for several months if they were renovating it.
The shelter provides more than a place to sleep; it also serves a witness to Christian faith, Hunter said. Church groups come every evening to prepare dinner, and two volunteers spend the night seven days a week.
``I think there's an opportunity for people to see a hands-on program of ministry,' he said. ``It's not just someone writing a check.'