Even though the Haywood Pathways Center was conceived just a year ago, the transitional housing nonprofit operating out of a former state prison has already proven its methods can change lives.
The center was born out of necessity, really. The Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter, which operated only during the winter months, was losing its lease and needed to find a new home by November.
Shelter leaders, individuals passionate about helping individuals released from prison transition back into society and the leadership at Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church joined together to find a solution.
Along the way, the groups ignited the dreams of many community members committed to building a better society, and together accomplished what many considered to be impossible.
“Flip this Prison,” became buzz words in the community, and about $350,000 was raised in just months, some through grants, some through donations. The money, along with plenty of volunteer labor, helped convert dormitories at the former Hazelwood prison into a shelter for men and a shelter for women, renovate and equip the kitchen and build a laundry facility.
The center opened in November as planned and is working at a level that most new organizations could only hope for. While as many as 35 individuals used the services during the cold winter months, it has pleasantly surprised organization leaders that about 25 are sticking with the life plan improvement programs during the warm months when most were forced back into a life on the streets as a result of the shelter closing.
The center insists that those who take advantage of a free place to stay and free meals participate in chores to keep the facility going, as well as craft and follow a life improvement plan that will get them back into self-sufficiency.
In just six months, 128 individuals have been served through the center, and of that number, about 40 percent have found a way to move into their own homes.
Considering the concept was an entirely new one to Haywood, though not in other communities which were visited to craft a model that would work here. The early success, that will only improve as the rough edges are refined, illustrates the Haywood Pathways Center concept was an idea whose time had come.
All involved with the effort — from those on the ground daily working their program to the volunteers that make it all possible to the visionaries that conceived the idea to the benefactors in the community that helped fund it — deserve a pat on the back for a job well done.
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