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By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
On a recent morning, Tammy Harmon saw a strange sight on her way to work.
“Way down the street, I saw someone walking very slowly,” said Harmon, director of Hope House of the Good Shepherd in Galax. “I didn’t think much about it, and I went inside.”
Around 40 minutes later, Hope House had a visitor — the same man she had seen walking before. “He was slowly scooting his feet, and could barely make it up the sidewalk” to the homeless shelter on West Center Street, Harmon remembered. “His shoes were so small, and his feet were purple.”
The man’s name was Wayne Hall, and he had traveled mostly on foot for 10 days, sleeping in ditches on the side of the road and in the woods. He was diabetic, and had lost his insulin while he was traveling.
Hall had nothing but the clothes on his back, and a small amount of change in his pockets. The only food on his stomach was a few peanut butter crackers that he’d bought with some money he had been given.
“He said to me, ‘Please help me... you are my last hope,’” said Harmon.
That was the moment when Hall’s life changed.
During the stay that followed his somber arrival, Hall says that he received more than just food, clothes, medicine and a warm bed.
He gained a family.
Today, he lives in an apartment, has a part-time job and continues to offer any services he can to Hope House. To inspire others, he gives public testimonies at local churches, where he tells others about the obstacles he has overcome.
Stories of success like Hall’s are what the Hope House is all about. Formerly known as Hostel of the Good Shepherd, the ministry has offered shelter and other essentials since it first opened in 1987. Today, it operates as a men’s shelter and a resource for anyone who needs its help.
Harmon joined the Hope House team in June 2012. “Since she came on board, she has handled at least 35 cases, not including outside work with [house fire] victims and other situations,” said president Dennis Hayes.
“I love it,” Harmon said about her job. “I feel like in my past I’ve been through a lot and I know that God has brought me here. “
Along with her work, Harmon said that she quickly felt a connection with the people she helped. “For the first three months, I soaked the paperwork in tears,” she said. “I still cry, but it’s becoming easier now.”
The full Hope House board includes Hayes, vice president Susan White, treasurer Lynn Funk, secretary Tonia Newman, Cliff Phillips, Deana Richardson, Pastor Bill Shortridge and Pastor Barry Newman.
A Voice in a Sea of Need
When Hall first arrived at the Hope House, he had recently been released from the Western Virginia Regional Jail in Salem after serving two-and-a-half years for probation violation. “When I was released, I had nowhere to go, no money, just the clothes on my back. I had a 30-day supply of medicine from the jail.”
Hall tried to stay with a friend, but soon had to leave because of the friend’s drug use. “I knew that if I stayed with them, I’d either be dead or back in jail,” he said.
Aside from two estranged family members in Fries, he had no one to turn to, he said.
So Hall began walking, hitch-hiking when he could, searching for a safe place where he could turn his life around.
“I got one ride from Christiansburg to Radford, and [the driver] gave me money for food,” he said. He used the money to buy some crackers, and continued walking. He slept on the side of the road, in the woods or wherever else he felt that he would be safe.
“I gave myself an insulin shot one night, and I couldn’t find it the next morning,” Hall said. “It scared me being on the street without medicine.”
At that point, Hall began to feel desperate. “I had been out on the street so long... after I lost my insulin, I thought about doing something to get back in jail,” Hall said.
After a 10-day journey, he arrived in Galax, where the Department of Social Services sent him to Hope House.
From there, he was quickly given food, medicine and shelter. “We usually have a time when we wake everyone up, but after what he’d been through, we just let him sleep,” Harmon remembered.
The shelter has a 90-day policy, but Hall was assured that he would receive help for as long as he needed it.
Due to significant amounts of nerve damage in his arms, Hall was unable to work certain jobs. “I wanted to give back in some way, so I became the Hope House cook,” he said. He also worked as a day monitor for the shelter.
Two weeks before Christmas last year, the shelter’s board found Hall a job at Grayson Inn & Suites in Independence. He says the job was made for him: “It’s a very nice place to work, with six Christian ladies. I don’t have to worry about being around other addicts, so I don’t have that problem anymore."
He continues to offer what help he can to Hope House today, and he shares his inspirational story with the community whenever possible by speaking in local churches.
Because of his drastic actions, Hall has now found freedom through his independence. Hall has been alcohol-free since 1997, and drug-free for over two-and-a-half years.
“I don’t know where I would have been without the Hope House,” he said.
The Hope House Mission
Although Hope House is now a shelter for men, Harmon said that they will extend as much help as they can to anyone who needs it. Whether it is a woman in need of transportation to another shelter, or a family in need of basic items after a house fire, they are ready to go the extra mile.
The ministry provides help based on four different levels of need: level one, emergency shelter and assessment; level two, basic services; level three, extended stay services; and level four, follow-up services.
In addition to providing shelter, Hope House works with other local organizations to provide mentoring programs, employment and educational opportunities, and overall aid in helping residents gain independence.
Each Sunday, the residents attend church.
Hope House has partnered with several local agencies, including Cross Ministries, Rooftop of Virginia, Willing Partners, Joy Ranch, the Soup Kitchen and God’s Pit Crew.
While they are dedicated to helping everyone they can, there are several steps that have to be taken with each case. “Its not just a place to crash and we don’t just let anyone in,” Harmon said, addressing a common misconception about the shelter.
Harmon usually begins an assessment by conducting a pre-interview with each person who comes in. She asks about their background, including medical history, history of substance abuse, military service and whether they have family to reach out to.
Basic essentials are seen to right away. In cases where a person hasn’t eaten, either Harmon or a resident will fix a meal for them. If clothes are needed, Hope House provides them.
Hall remembered the help he received when he first arrived in his shocking condition. “In five minutes, I was fed, and within an hour, [Tammy] got me medicine,” he said.
As a faith-based ministry, Harmon told the Gazette that “we receive no government funding. We depend on the community to keep us going.”
To keep the mission going takes at least $3,800 per month, but so far the community has come through for the shelter. Not only does it receive monetary donations, but also donations of supplies and time.
Even the residents chip in, Harmon said.
An outstanding example of resident and community effort was when Hope House needed extensive repairs due to the flooding of the second-floor bathroom. “There was well over $10,000 in damage,” Hayes said.
Together, volunteer efforts resulted in a job well done.
In addition to repairs, the yard has also been cleaned up, and the board is looking into getting a new building in the future. “Right now, we are trying to keep the lights on,” Hayes said, “And while it’s important to fix the house up, we are mending lives, too.”
In the meantime, every square inch of the nine-room house is utilized to its fullest. Empty corners are stacked with donated items, and rooms are organized to fit as many as four beds at a time.
During a tour of one of the bedrooms, Harmon flipped up the comforter of one of the beds, revealing dressers underneath. “We did this to save space and maximize our storage,” she said.
Innovations like that are made to fit as many people in the house as possible.
Before his involvement with the Hope House, Hall himself said he wasn’t aware of how great the need of a shelter was.
Continuing their mission of faith, the doors remain open to change as many lives as possible for the better.
“There are so many ministries that are overseas, but we have a real mission at our back door that people don’t realize,” said vice president Susan White.
• Galax Hope House is located at 408 W. Center St. in downtown Galax. To volunteer or to find out more information, contact the shelter at 236-7573, Harmon at 768-6042 or visit www.galaxhopehouse.com. Send donations to Hope House, P.O. Box 1131, Galax, VA 24333. Prayers are also welcomed and appreciated, the staff says.
• Carroll County High School will host a gospel singing on March 23 at 6:30 p.m., featuring the Preacher’s Choir, The McKameys and a singing of the National Anthem by Aimee Vaughan. Admission is $10, and all proceeds go to the Hope House. For more information, call 236-3550 or 233-6425. Tickets may be purchased at Hope House, Lincoln Financial Securities at 411 N. Main St. in Galax; Southern States in Galax; Watson Auto Sales at 1010 E. Stuart Drive in Galax; Cox Realty in Galax; Shoney’s at I-77 in Hillsville; Omega Office in downtown Hillsville; and Guillion’s Christian Supply Center at 2133 Rockford St, Mount Airy, N.C.