At T-minus three days until the scheduled opening day for Haywood Pathways Center, Nick Honerkamp still wasn’t sure how to answer the big question: will the shelter open? “That is the question of the week,” said Honerkamp, one of the leaders of the effort, Wednesday (Nov. 12) morning. A trip down to the Pathways campus in Hazelwood, which used to be a state prison, showed in short order why Honerkamp hedged his words. Beds had been delivered but were still unpacked, the bathrooms had a definitive lack of finished polish, and the campus was full of contractors working, volunteers doing odd jobs and leaders like Honerkamp and construction manager Dale Burris conferencing about how it was all going to get done in time. “You’re dealing with skilled labor and you’re dealing with volunteers and inspections, and all those things take time,” Honerkamp explained.
Unlike the three-day blitz in September when hundreds of volunteers descended on the site to paint, clean and landscape, the work remaining was the stop-and-go kind that required a little bit of work, a wait for an inspection, and then a bit more work. In perhaps one of the most telling on-site scenes, a cup of empty coffee lay atop a weathered copy of site plans laid out in the kitchen. “My assistant says, ‘I know you love our congregation, so please don’t talk to any of them this week. You’re too crabby,’” joked Honerkamp, who also serves as senior pastor at New Covenant Church in Clyde. But by Saturday night, some missing pieces had come together, and Haywood Pathways was able to open one of its dormitories, giving eight people a place to stay as temperatures dipped below freezing.
With no kitchen yet functioning, those in need of shelter met at The Open Door in Frog Level for a hot meal, caught a ride over to Pathways for the night and then were taken back to Frog Level for breakfast. Since only one dorm was open, it took some improvisation to house male and female guests. But Honerkamp counts the weekend as a win. “I’m very proud of where we are today with the community support,” he said. “We had another dozen volunteers out there on Saturday doing some finishing touches. I feel like everyone involved has worked really hard to get that
Nov. 15 deadline.” The chilly weather might have offered some additional motivation.
According to the National Weather Service, the first half of November in Asheville averaged 44.1 degrees, the 17th coldest out of 123 years of data. Honerkamp expects the second dorm to
open sometime this week and the kitchen to follow suit around the end of the month. “We’ve been focusing our primary energies on the other two dormitories, so we’ve put The Open Door as the third in priority to get it done for this phase one, so we’re just a little bit behind,” said Perry Hines, executive director of The Open Door. “We have to finish framing the bathrooms and just some
minor construction work.”