Developing a Community Plan for a Temporary Emergency Shelter
Over two years ago, I was asked to evaluate social ministry needs within the Pickens County community and determine how The Salvation Army of Pickens County could help meet those needs. Since then, my team has collaborated with other Pickens County agencies who serve our community through social services, medical care and emergency disaster response. At this time, we believe The Salvation Army of Pickens County could better serve this community by completing the assessment, development and launching of a capital campaign, centering on the need for a temporary emergency shelter here in Pickens County.
In our assessment, the need for a temporary emergency shelter extends beyond the need for a homeless shelter. A temporary emergency shelter would address various potential community crises:
- Emergency Disaster Shelter: local tornados, hotel fires, flooding, etc.
- Cold Weather Shelter: for nights when temperatures fall below 40 degrees.
- Medical Respite Shelter: host patients experiencing homelessness and allow them to avoid the cost of an emergency room bed while being too weak to return to the streets.
- Poverty Crisis Shelter: stabilize those experiencing homelessness, addiction, mental health issues, etc. and assess transfer to existing resources.
This temporary emergency shelter is the "what" of our preliminary assessment, but we must also address the "why" at the heart of our assessment. In God’s plan, the why came before the what: for God so loved the world.
Every day, neighbors walk into our doors facing a crisis and needing direct response to their current storm. These individuals are alone and suffering in the moment, floating without hope in the waves of their trial. As a community, our ability to stabilize crises and assess needs is crucial as the first step in our cycle of HOPE. If we are unable to stabilize immediate crises, we will struggle to effectively empower the proper next steps. In other words, if someone is drowning, it’s not the time to discuss swim lessons.
For our agency, most of the discussion has focused on the what: our community could benefit from a temporary emergency shelter. But my heart is increasingly focused on the importance of the why. Why are we creating this plan? To serve our neighbors well because they are worthy.
We believe the effort required to develop this plan is justified. Our neighbors have recently experienced tornados, fire, flood, cold weather, medical recovery and poverty-related crises. These men and women are created and loved by God and deserve our best effort in serving their needs and helping avoid negative consequences. The why–the value of our neighbors’ lives–motivates us to do our very best. For God so loved the world….
The Salvation Army of Pickens County is currently completing the necessary work to evaluate the existing need and to develop a defined, sustainable, recommended solution. This community objective requires many to give of their time, talent and resources. We work together for a common goal because those we serve are worthy of this effort.
We are in the process of hiring a consultant to lead this required process, which includes four stages. Each stage will have a “go/no-go decision point” that we build into all of the work before us:
- Mission Planning Study: Analyze the current situation and determine unmet/under-met needs based on what community leaders identify. Assess our potential to address some of those needs in a specific manner, while collaborating with pre-existing services within the county (avoiding duplication and/or gaps in service). The MPS will include three phases: Organizational Assessment, Community Assessment and Possibilities (recommended solutions).
- Strategic Plan: Conduct a Strategic Planning Retreat with the goal of developing specific plans supporting the Possibilities derived from the MPS results. This would include property (where to build or decide not to build), programming (who is being served and how they will be served), operational cost (affected by what on-site services are expected and who we serve with the shelter) and financial sustainability (specific funding sources).
- Feasibility Study: After establishing a Strategic Plan, develop a budget including upfront and on-going operational costs to support the recommended properties and programs. Once numbers have been established, identify and obtain commitment from specific donors within the community to meet these immediate and ongoing costs.
- Capital Campaign: Launch a public campaign to raise required up-front funds to begin construction of the recommended project.
This four-stage process is necessary to develop an efficient, sustainable solution to the needs identified here in Pickens County. This process is rigorous and will require dedication from many people. We will recruit individuals to serve on our council and committees as we work toward this common goal. Each effort is an investment in our community and will produce future dividends in return. These dividends include a reduction in the cost for welfare, uninsured medical bills, the cost of crime and loss of workforce production in attracting new business development. We will not regret taking the time to develop an intentional plan of action.
As much as we feel the daily need for a temporary emergency shelter, we believe in the importance of taking these necessary steps to ensure the sustainability of our community investment. This required planning is driven by a core value that our neighbors are worthy of our efforts and deserve our very best, coupled with reducing taxpayers cost resulting from families left in poverty.
For God so loved the world….