By SARAH BRADBURY
When Mary Edwards, vice president of Crossroads Shelter, Board of Directors, came on board, “the building was starting to show signs of aging; it was already an older home when it was purchased in 1989.” She said concerns about the facility were starting to surface. “We put money in it to keep it running, built onto it to house men and women in separate facilities,” had grant funding, non-profit funding, but it was “still not enough to keep the facility running and keep repairs going.” Edwards says they were not shut down because of the building inspector or fire marshal, but because they had to make the difficult decision because of funding.
“Some of the other board members who took more interest in the physical part of the building did repairs and maintenance themselves,” Edwards said, “but there were too many structural issues to keep putting money into it, and donations started to dwindle.” She said even grant funding started to dry up as well. She explained it was a combination of the facility wearing out and a lack of funding, so they had to make the decision to sell the place.
Edwards said they planned to keep Crossroads Shelter running until they were ready to sell, in hopes of relocating those in the shelter beforehand. They were able to meet this goal.
The building that housed Crossroads Shelter was on the market for a year and didn’t sell, so it was finally auctioned off. “In the meantime, we had enough grant funding from some sources where we were able to provide some of the homeless with vouchers,” said Edwards. “We have low-income housing in the area and helped them find homes and jobs to stay in the area.”
Edwards said HOPE ministry, which has been around for quite a while, took over with a grant called the Coordinated Community Response to Homelessness (CCRH). This “grant funded program … kind of took over helping the homeless, we didn’t have a shelter, but the grant was for an opportunity to help people be located and find employment,” said Edwards. She said they continue to provide vouchers for those who are passing through and need a place to stay for the night.
She explained that recently they aided a mother and two children. They were found in the back of Applebee’s where they had been dropped off. Someone from Applebee’s called the sheriff’s office, a response most people who encounter the homeless have. Part of what CCRH does is provide vouchers “so we can put them up in a hotel and help them go in a different direction.We don’t know where they were from,” said Edwards of the mother and children, “but we were able to put them up for a few days.”
Crossroads was a short-term shelter, but they did have a few incidences of people staying for a couple of months. Edwards shared a success story of a man who stayed at the shelter for several months. The shelter had a greenhouse as part of a work and society re-entry type of program, and this man was put to work there. “He learned the trade and he became very successful at the greenhouse, which was sold at the same time as the shelter, but the buyer hired him on,” said Edwards. “There are lots of success stories where people were given the confidence and support to get back into the community, find jobs, go back to school.”
Edwards said if they could have afforded to keep Crossroads open, they would have, but didn’t want to bring people into an unsafe structure. They simply didn’t have adequate funding to keep the facility in repair.
Edwards said she is about the only board member left, and the board has basically dissolved. “At this point, I am trying to dissolve the corporation, and any homelessness we are referring to HOPE Ministries,” said Edwards. “As soon as we started selling the shelter, we transferred everyone over to HOPE, which I believe serves the same region as Crossroads did — Pulaski, Wythe, Smith, Carroll, Bland, and Galax.” The people of HOPE Ministries were unable to provide comments when contacted.
At one point the shelter had to shut down during the day because they didn’t have the funding to pay people during the day. “A couple of them went to the bank to get a warm cup of coffee,” said Edwards of some of those staying at Crossroads. The bank had a fundraiser to try to keep the shelter open during the winter months because of this. There’s nothing I hate worse than having to do this,” said Edwards, of having to close down the shelter.
Although Crossroads Shelter did not survive, its legacy lives on and its work is carried out through HOPE Ministries. For more information on HOPE Ministries located at 680 W. Main St.,Wytheville, VA 24382, call 276-228-6280 or toll free at 877-818-8680, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit wythehope.org.