Women’s shelter may open soonPublished 5:40pm Friday, March 22, 2013
Eight Bainbridge women have been meeting for a year with the goal of offering shelter and assistance to homeless women and their children.
Their vision became the Still Waters Shelter, which is getting ready to open its doors this spring in a renovated home on North Russ Street.
The shelter will be able to house up to 12 women at a time, for up to 90 days. The hope is that during that 90 days, the staff and volunteers will provide the women with counseling and assistance to get them back on their feet and in a permanent home, said Missy Rollins, executive director of the Friendship House and one of the members of the shelter’s steering committee.
With a $10,000 gift, the Bainbridge First United Methodist Church has given the shelter “the last little push it needs” to finish renovating the home and open its doors, Rollins said.
The gift was provided from proceeds of the estate that one of the Methodist’s church’s members, Henry Olivent, left to the church with the stipulation that the money be used solely for missions, said Rev. Randy Mosley of FUMC.
The church created the Olivent Mission Fund, whose committee members decided to award Still Waters a gift after Rollins presented the vision for the shelter. Gene Miller, who had quietly provided aid to the homeless and needy over the years, served as the executor of Olivent’s estate and also supported the vision for Still Waters.
The shelter’s genesis stems largely from the personal vision of two women, Rollins and local realtor Lauren Harrell.
Rollins said that after becoming the director of the Friendship House, which runs an after-school program and summer day camp for children and youth, she noticed that some of the children’s families had recurring financial troubles.
“For various reasons, there were women who were finding themselves temporarily homeless two to three times a year,” Rollins said. “The children were being affected, particularly because they often had to change schools mid-year, depending on where they were staying.”
About two years ago, there was a homeless man living in what was then the run-down residence that Still Waters is located in, Harrell recalls. The house had also once been used for the Friendship House’s Bible study for teenage girls.
“My daughter and I had just been baptized and we had all this extra food that we wanted to share with someone who needed it,” Harrell said. “We had come to the Friendship House to feed a family that needed food, when we found out about the homeless man.”
When Harrell and her family made contact with the man, something special happened. She realized that she had dreamed about the inside of the house next to the Friendship House without ever being inside it before.
“I had this dream that there was a house where you could walk between several rooms in a circle–each of the four rooms had a woman standing inside it, each with different problems,” Harrell said. “In the last room, there was a table with building plans lying on top of it.”
Harrell talked with Rollins after that experience, and the two women began brain-storming about what they could do to help homeless women.
Since then, the shelter’s steering committee, which consists of eight local women, have contributed their own vision, inspiration and effort toward making the shelter a reality.
Lynn Walker, a member of the Methodist Church, is the chairperson of the steering committee. Other members include Rollins, Harrell, Firehouse Director Cheryl Carvajal, community activist Marjean Boyd, businesswoman June Faircloth, school social worker Allison Harrell and counselor Tina Byrd.
The shelter’s director is Joyce Williams, who had previously done volunteer work in New Jersey and has experience volunteering as an advocate for foster children in the juvenile court system. Williams became involved with the shelter after volunteering at the Friendship House, where she met Rollins.
Each of the women lend their professional expertise to the project. Carvajal and Boyd, both former educators, have been instrumental in developing the shelter handbook each future resident will receive and have to abide by after arriving. They also designed the screening process by which shelter staff will determine each resident’s specific needs and to what degree they can take care of themselves.
Faircloth, who has an interior design and decor business, and Walker have worked tirelessly to coordinate the furnishings, fabric, paint and other details of the shelter’s renovation. Much of the renovation has utilized materials donated by local businesses and private persons, Walker said.
“A lot of the materials have just so happened to coordinate with each other and the design of the home, which I think is by God’s design,” Walker said. “It’s been a faith-building experience to see everything come together.”
Byrd and Allison Harrell will help connect the shelter’s residents to the resources they need to get back on their feet, and there are plans to set up a mentoring program in which volunteers will provide positive encouragement and support for residents.
The homeless women the shelter serves will also be invited to take part in weekly Bible study and worship programs that are now being hosted at the Friendship House, Rollins said.
The shelter will have an open house Sunday, April 14, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.