guests at HPC homeless shelterA warm place to sleep, three meals a day and time with family are often taken for granted by those who have them readily available each day.

For guests at the Haywood Pathways Center, these basic life necessities are not so easy to come by. Without the help of the community, many Haywood County residents would be out in the cold, searching each evening for a warm meal and a place to sleep.

The Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter, Next Step Ministries and a community soup kitchen sponsored by Long’s Chapel have worked together to renovate the former Hazelwood Prison to provide a place for those without hope to regain their footing. All three groups are using the Pathways center to provide a helping hand.

“The shelter has been up and running for a while now,” said Jeremy Parton, director of the homeless shelter and the soup kitchen. “Our goal is to have both sites fully functioning and working seamlessly by early 2015.”

The men’s dormitory has housed about 20 in the past several days, and between four and eight women stay in the women’s dormitory. Until the center’s kitchen opens, residents rise as 6 a.m., shower and do morning chores before being transported to the Open Door in Waynesvile’s Frog Level community for breakfast. After dinner that evening, transportation is provided back to the shelter.

Community and church volunteers, including LifeWorks, offer outreach programs.

Noah, a current guest at the homeless shelter, is a prime example of a person who was a fully functioning member of the community, but because of a short stint in jail, lost his home, vehicle and job. He’s focused on not making his current situation his new identity.

“I really enjoy when the speakers from Life Works come. The lady said something last week that stuck with me,” Noah said. “She told us, ‘You are not a homeless person, you are a person who is experiencing homelessness.’ That statement really motivated me. It makes me feel hopeful.”

The HPC soup kitchen is not in operation yet, but the plan is for the meals to be very strategic in helping the guests acquire skills that will help them transition back into the community.

Perry Hines, director of the Open Door and member of the HPC board, said the guests themselves will cook breakfast at the soup kitchen each day and clean up. The entire responsibility of the meal will be their own. The midday meal will be bagged lunches so that folks can take the meal with them to work. The evening meal will be provided by churches and other organizations.

“It is our goal to have the soup kitchen up and running for the guests of the homeless shelter by Dec. 28,” said Hines.

Many families make donations during the holiday season. Making a charitable donation to a local non-profit or organization is a wonderful way to truly give and to teach children the human trait of altruism.

The Haywood Pathways Center board appreciates donations of any size and reminds folks that all donations are tax deductible. To donate, visit the #FeedTheNeed crowd funding site All money funnels to the three organizations under the Haywood Pathways Center umbrella.

“This is a blessed place,” said Noah. “I’m very grateful to have it. Otherwise, I would be out on the streets.”

The effort to raise additional money for HPC has become an intergenerational one. As part of the #FeedTheNeed crowd funding campaign, folks and groups of all ages and demographics have been building awareness for and donating to the cause.

During the Waynesville Christmas parade, four children, Savannah Williams and Taylor, Mollie, and Emory Eason, walked the parade with their moms, Melanie and Anna, to distribute flyers regarding #FeedTheNeed.

“I want to help people in Haywood County who can’t help themselves. Whenever I help someone I feel good about doing something right,” said Savannah Williams, age 10. “Some people don’t know if they’ll have a warm dinner, and that’s awful.  We need to do something about it.  It’s really amazing how a small amount of money can give someone so much.”

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