Community celebrates opening of Pathways women and children shelter
The John William Pope Foundation granted $10,000 to the Pathways Women and Children shelter to provide lodging with shared kitchen and laundry facilities for up to 10 family units of women with children.
The Mountaineer, By Becky Johnson, June 23, 2019:
COMMUNITY STEPS UP — A ribbon-cutting for a transitional shelter for homeless women with children located on the Pathways Center Campus was held in June. An outpouring of community support and fundraising made the project a reality. As with those in the men’s and women’s dormitories, mothers with children are offered a safe environment for a limited period as long as they are working with the staff social worker toward a permanent solution to their homelessness.
A transitional shelter for homeless women with children trying to build a new life became a reality last Friday, with the celebrated opening of The Haywood Pathways Center Myr-Ken Building.
The $650,000 addition to the Haywood Pathways Center will provide lodging with shared kitchen and laundry facilities for up to 10 family units of women with children.
Nearly 100 people gathered for a ribbon cutting of the Myr-Ken Building Friday.
“Pathways started as and continues to be a community project,” said Pathways Director Mandy Haithcox. “From financial support to volunteer presence to persistent prayer to community education and advocacy, Pathways would not be what it is today without all of you.”
Nick Honerkamp, pastor of New Covenant Church, recounted the evolution of the Pathways Center from idea to reality. The need for not merely a homeless shelter but creating a transitional program to help people start a new life crystalized one day four years ago as Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher saw two inmates being released from jail with nowhere to go.
“They walked out and sat on the curb with nowhere to go and the sheriff said ‘We’ve got to do something about the recidivism rate. We can’t keep arresting the same people over and over,’” Honerkamp said.
The community rallied to the cause, raising funds and donating labor to convert a shuttered state prison in Hazelwood into the Pathways Center four years ago.
“We had 1,500 volunteers that flipped this prison into what it is today. If you ask anyone in Haywood County who is responsible for flipping this prison, they’ll say ‘we are.’ Truly it was the citizens of Haywood County that came together,” Honerkamp said.
However, it soon became evident that The Pathways Center lacked a critical element: a separate unit capable of housing women with children.
“Together we have created not just a building but a safe and welcoming home that serves to facilitate life transformation as moms and children find respite, as they work to break the cycles that got them here and build new foundations,” Haithcox said.
While the community at large pulled together around the project, Haithcox recognized a few key champions at the celebration. One was the Friends of Laurel Ridge, which provided $300,000 to jumpstart the fundraising campaign.
“This group of folks in particular has had this project in their hearts and on their minds for a very long time,” Haithcox said.
The John Williams Pope Foundation gave $100,000 to the project.
“That allowed us to start this project while continuing to fundraise,” Haithcox said.
The Mountaineer was also recognized for its community campaign that pushed the fundraising campaign over the finish line last fall.
“The Mountaineer hosted a readers challenge to help Pathways raise the remaining funds needed so we could build this building debt free. This effort raised over $150,000 in a months time,” Haithcox said.
Also recognized for their contribution were Ken and Myrna Snyder, who gave $100,000 donation that led to the building being named in their honor.
“They have long had a heart for struggling and they wanted to share the resources they have with those who need a hand up,” Haithcox said.
The Myr-Ken Building is a combination of their first names.
Lastly, Haithcox recognized Pathways board member Jim Blythe.
“This project would not have been possible if not for the countless hours and true dedication of Jim Blythe, our project manager and all around mastermind of this project,” Haithbox said.
The Pathways Center has seen an increase in the number of clients seeking services, often resulting in a waiting list — all 60 slots were full Friday at the ribbon cutting.
The Pathways Center is more than a homeless shelter. It emphasizes job training, spiritual counseling, rehabilitation and life-skills coaching as clients prepare to reenter society.
“About 60 percent of our folks leave here and move into housing or move back in with family,” Haithcox said. “We feel like we are making a lot of progress.”
Haithcox added that 70 percent of those staying at Pathways currently are employed, many of them full-time as they save up money to move into housing of their own.
“Lives have been changed. People have been rescued from poverty and addiction and despair. They have turned their lives around,” said Celicia Willett with Haywood County United Way.
An open house of the Myr-Ken Building allowed community members to see the rooms, beautifully decorated with rugs, wall pictures, lamps, stuffed animals, books and other comforts of home.
All the furnishings and interior decor were provided by volunteers. Realtors with Beverly Hanks led the effort to furnish and decorate the rooms, working together in pairs or small groups to take on different rooms.
“It was our goal to honor the women and children who find themselves in this situation. We wanted to be part of creating a comfortable and welcoming space for them as they begin the journey toward a new life,” said Pamela Williams, a Realtor with Beverly Hanks.
The Haywood County faith community has been instrumental in the success of The Pathways Center. A blessing for the Myr-Ken Building was offered by Paul Kaptak, a volunteer chaplain with Pathways.
“Bless the roof and the walls that will create a safe space for new beginnings. Bless the table where meals will be shared nourishing bodies and spirit. Bless the families who will find rest and encouragement to follow your path of light,” he said. “May all who enter these premises sense your presence power and love.”