Many people have been mentioned as having an integral part in His Hope Ministries, both foundational and ongoing. There are many more, Board Members, Staff, Volunteers, all without whom this ministry would not function. Each one is as vitally important as those that were mentioned. They do not, however, seek the limelight, they seek to provide, as His Hope Ministries’ self-description states: “A Christ centered life changing ministry to help individuals and families fight homelessness and find living hope.”
DENTON — Unity of purpose and calling is a stronger force than special interest at His Hope Ministries in Denton. People from diverse walks of life and differing economic, educational, and ethnic backgrounds have come together with a vision for the community that is not only thriving but growing.
His Hope Ministries began operating out of one room with much prayer and determination in the winter of 2011. Winter Haven, the predecessor in name of His Hope Ministries, began when Rev. Richard Parks, former Pastor of Greensboro Baptist Church, and Joel Kurz, former Youth Pastor of Greensboro Baptist, along with a group of Caroline County concerned citizens brought the idea of a cold weather shelter to the North County Clergy Association. Also instrumental in recognizing and addressing the plight of the homeless in Caroline County was James Bradley of Denton. Prior to his death in 2018, he championed this cause through the Voice of the Homeless of which he was “the founding force.” The rapid growth and expansion of Winter Haven into His Hope Ministries was precipitated largely by the vision and networking skill of Brian Gourley, Chief Financial Officer of His Hope Ministries and Deacon at Denton Calvary Baptist Church.
Originally, space for a shelter was located on the Denton Wesleyan Campground. At the time, one room in a building unused by the Camp in the winter was available. Since the origination of Winter Haven in 2011, His Hope Ministries’ Shelter at 409 Aldersgate Drive, Denton, now occupies an entire handicapped accessible building serving homeless or displaced persons and families not only in Caroline County, but the entire Mid-Shore.
Intake for guests often occurs initially by phone, and then by personal interview at the His Hope Ministries’ Resource Center located at 105 Gay Street in Denton. Each guest or family is assigned a Housing and Family Support Specialist.
There is currently room for approximately seven men, six women, and three or four families to receive emergency crisis shelter nightly, with His Hope Ministries’ Shelter open in the evening for dinner, overnight lodging, showering, and laundry needs. For those without vehicles, transportation is supplied from Denton. In the morning a nutritious breakfast is provided along with a sack lunch and transportation into the town of Denton.
None of this happens without the assistance of the community. Evening meals are provided by local churches and volunteers who have signed up to provide a meal on the “Meal Train” at http://www.mealtrain.com/e7g62o. Sometimes the evening meals are taken in-house, other times the guests are transported to a local church for the meal.
Groceries, toiletries, and other non-monetary times are donated or purchased with donated funds. A list of needed items can be found at the Resource Center.
During the day, the Resource Center becomes the hub of ongoing activities. Beth Wall is the Manager of the Resource Center and a Client Support Specialist. Wall keeps the forms and resources available at the Resource Center well stocked and current.
These resources include applications for: rental housing, identification cards, child support, and criminal record expungement. Additional resources include food pantry locations, alcoholics anonymous, narcotics anonymous, employment and housing opportunities, spiritual guidance, mental health services, and much more. The Resource Center can also assist families that are being evicted, said Wall.
The Resource Center is open during the day to provide adults with the services listed above as well as myriad other resources and opportunities. Children are welcome with an area provided for them to read, play, and watch movies. While the children are occupied, the adults can avail themselves of the technology provided such as computers and printers.
Besides shelter, immediate needs are also met in the form of food and clothing. The Resource Center has a “Blessing Box” located outside which contains nonperishable food items that can be utilized on an as needed basis. The idea is to take an item or leave an item depending on circumstances. If there is a larger need, there is a pantry located inside the Resource Center that can supply a larger, pressing need for food items or toiletries. Clothing is provided through a voucher system in cooperation with the Samaritan House, a local non-profit organization located on 5th Street in Denton.
According to Lynn Keckler, Executive Director of His Hope Ministries, prior to the 105 Gay Street location, the His Hope Ministries’ Resource Center was located next door, in the basement of Christ Episcopal Church at 107 Gay Street. The Resource Center operated out of the basement the Episcopal Church provided for approximately two years, moving into their current location, the former Rectory of Christ Episcopal Church in March 2019. If the mountain of donations that came in a 24-hour time frame is any indication, the need for a larger Resource Center is imminent. Keckler intimates that all the Board Members, Staff, and volunteers “love the Lord, have a heart for the homeless, and are God lead.”
The Goal of His Hope Ministries in providing Emergency Crisis Shelter is to “identify the right mix of resources to assist in aligning goals and promoting a robust pathway so the client may move beyond their crisis situation and into self-sufficiency and family success.” In an average year, His Hope Ministries provides approximately “170 people with emergency crisis shelter, 6000 shelter bed nights, 16,000 nutritious meals, 40 people with homeless prevention, 115 people with rapid rehousing, 160 people with outreach, and 525 rides to appointments, medical, housing opportunities, resource center and/or shelter.”
One of His Hope Ministries’ projects highlighted by Keckler is the advent of year-round transitional housing for seniors. Of concern in the community is the length of time between when a senior adult learns that they have a housing crisis and the availability of senior and/or low-cost housing. This gap can be years long due to bureaucracy, funding, and the number of units vacant.
A solution is coming in the form of a little house. His Hope Ministries will have the little house, located at 1000 Market Street, for a minimum of five years.
This transitional housing for seniors will provide housing for three to six seniors whose situations are in flux until permanent housing opportunities can be arranged. In the meantime, seniors will have a secure place to sleep and eat, companionship, and the tools to find the resources to meet their individual needs. His Hope Ministries is hoping to have this resource available as early as late spring or early summer. as Kleckler notes, “God is doing so much!”.
When addressing homelessness in the community, there is an often-overlooked group. His Hope Ministries’ newest service, their Unaccompanied Youth Housing Program seeks to address the needs of homeless youth ages 16/18 to 24 years who do not have adult support. Loge Knight is leading this effort.
The purpose of the program Knight directs is “to install a system to address the barriers that youth in homeless situations face while trying to achieve success in life.” Through His Hope Ministries, with the help of staff and community volunteers, Knight accomplishes this “by ensuring that these youth have access to appropriate services, trainings and support, and services to keep the unaccompanied youth safe and secure in permanent housing.”
For unaccompanied youth still attending high school, every effort is made to facilitate the youth staying in school and graduating. For the unaccompanied youth who did not have that opportunity, G.E.D. training can be arranged.
Each unaccompanied youth is an individual and support is provided on an as needed basis. Support available: shelter/housing, collaboration with local landlords, peer support groups, employment assistance, home economics and self-care, financial literacy, career training and certification, and mentorship. Providing these life skills and education help prevent continued or recurring “homelessness, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and violence.”
These unaccompanied youth, mentored and equipped by Knight and his colleagues are better “prepared for life and life challenges.” Support of peers and the community “can ensure greater chances of unaccompanied youth sustaining long term housing and job retention . . . empower [them] to make better decisions and strive towards their goals [with] increase[d] self-esteem and confidence.”
Knight encourages business owners and landlords interested in helping the community and making a difference in individual lives to contact him at the resource center at (443) 448- 7297. Knight cites the opportunity to assist young people who have a viable, established support system to get a fresh start.
His Hope Ministries will be participating in the upcoming Community Resource Day sponsored by the Caroline County Local Homeless Board. This event will take place on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, located at 100 S.5th Avenue in Denton.
This exciting and informative event includes information on health care, legal services, expungement, employment, substance abuse and recovery and treatment, housing assistance, shelter, veterans services and benefits, WIC, Delmarva Power and Choptank Electric, Caroline County Schools’ Pupil Services, picture IDs, birth certificate, haircuts, Head Start and Judy Centers, and giveaways as well as free lunch. Free transportation to and from the event will be provided from the Marydel, Federalsburg, Laurel Grove, and Greensboro areas. For more information contact Beth at (443) 448-7297 or (302) 786-5993.
His Hope Ministries, Inc. “is a humanitarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit and operates all of their programs relying on tax-deductible donations, as well as, volunteers.” To make a donation or to volunteer contact Beth Wall at the Resource Center at (443) 448-7297, find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HisHopeMinistries/, or online at hishopeministries.org.