Cooperative Christian Ministry and the Salvation Army of Concord have restructured their 25-year partnership to offer more resources to individuals and families facing homelessness.
On July 1, the Salvation Army will take on responsibility for staffing and programs of the Samaritan House Night Shelter and its weekday soup kitchen on Patterson Avenue in Concord.
CCM will operate the facility until the transition is complete. Then it will focus on new solutions for people facing a housing crisis in Cabarrus County.
The change is one of the first steps taken by the Cabarrus County Homelessness Taskforce. The 14-agency group, created by CCM in August, has identified resources and programs in place for the homeless.
Next, it will identify the homeless populations – from the chronically homeless and homeless veterans to single mothers and mentally disabled homeless – and try to connect them with programs to find gaps in meeting various needs.
Ed Hosack, executive director of CCM, called the restructuring a positive, well-planned, thought-out decision that will help create new resources for the community.
“This is demonstrating the strength of our partnership,” he said. “It is a win-win for the community. It’s … so important the community doesn’t perceive this as any kind of a separation or a negative development, because … community support is going to be absolutely critical in creating anything new.”
Needs on the rise
Major Jerry Lyles, commander of the Salvation Army’s Concord unit, has been with the Salvation Army for 35 years. He moved from Fayetteville to the Concord location in June.
Most communities have faith-based nonprofits similar to CCM, said Lyles, but CCM is strong.
“They’re not just in one spot in town,” Lyles said. “They’ve got outreach programs all over the county – with their different food banks and their different sheltering programs – so they cover the whole county.
“And our partnership with them is not only going to continue but grow stronger than it has over the last 25 years,” he said.
The two faith-based nonprofits celebrated their 25-year alliance in 2012. Leaders from both organizations say continued support from volunteers and donors is essential.
“If the community didn’t come together to address these concerns, then we would continue to have individuals and families fall through the cracks,” said Hosack. “Whether it be in the health care system, the legal system or the education system, it costs the community in every way when you don’t have the resources to provide basic needs: food, shelter, safety and opportunity for employment.”
In the past 10 years, Cabarrus County lost its two biggest private employers, said Hosack. Regional economic, employment and housing projections indicate Cabarrus County isn’t out of the woods yet.
“Part of what we recognize in studying our current environment is … that the housing crisis is going to continue for a number of years, and the need for shelter and housing right now exceeds the capacity in our community,” said Hosack.
The N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division recently reported the unemployment rate in Cabarrus County was at 9.4 percent in January, while North Carolina’s rate rose to 10.2 percent in the same month.
Data collected from 10 local agencies during the annual Point-In-Time homeless count in January showed a 54 percent spike in the number of homeless people in Cabarrus County since 2012.
“We’ve looked at our resources. Now we need to look at the gaps and figure out who can do what best…” said Hosack. “The biggest gap in Cabarrus County is (helping) the chronically homeless. We have no good response for them…”
Families facing homelessness had the fastest rate of increase, said Hosack. Recent numbers from the Cabarrus County and Kannapolis City schools reported 489 homeless students.
Needs in other areas, such as food and financial assistance, also are on the rise, said Hosack. CCM serves a record-breaking number of people on a regular basis through its food ministries, and need has begun to exceed CCM’s ability to move people out of crisis.
“We began to realize a few years ago that the one-and-done situations – where you help someone just once and they’re out of crisis – are almost nonexistent now,” he said. “It’s very challenging for us how to figure out how to adapt our model.… Typically, that means in order to see people move beyond crisis, we’re investing more time and more resources, we’re engaging with them for a longer period of time and, consequently, we’re able to serve fewer households in the process.”
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