Women's shelter in the works

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By Shaina Stockton, Staff

The Galax Hope House of the Good Shepherd, a faith-based ministry that offers a men’s shelter and a variety of other services to anyone in need, will soon have a refuge for women, as well.
Construction on a new women’s shelter has been confirmed by the group, and they are hoping to have it finished and ready for occupants by March 2014. At this time, crews and volunteers are working to bring the three-bedroom house up to code.
The dream of a women’s shelter has been in the making for many years, according to Hope House treasurer Lynn Funk. She explained that the shelter used to be a co-ed facility, but the issue of having both men and women who didn’t know one another under the same roof created an environment that was too stressful. “Some [individuals] also had children there... and it just wasn’t conducive to have male and female strangers under the same roof,” she said.
The group decided on a men’s shelter after taking into account the number of other resources women in this area already have. “There are many surrounding areas that offer services for women, and women and children tend to get first priority,” Funk said.
Bill Shortridge, president of the Hope House, told The Gazette on Tuesday that he and executive director Tammy Harmon had planned for an additional shelter for women a long time ago, but were waiting for an opportunity. He explained that the ministry relies completely on donations to keep the operation going.
One day, Shortridge was approached by Andy Edmonds, pastor of Gospel Chapel in Galax, with a stunning offer. “Andy came up out of the blue and said that ‘we bought a house and want to give it to you,’” Shortridge said.
Edmonds explained in an interview that his plan was to carry on the vision that the late pastor Bob Davis had for the church. “When I came to the church, he told me that his vision was for [the ministry] to go all the way to the corner [of the street],” Edmonds said. “When we acquired the property, God led us to give it to the Hope House.”
Edmonds eyes welled with tears as he added that the church gives Davis all of the credit for this effort, since it was his goal from the beginning. “We acquired the property within a week of Bob’s passing,” he said. “We all said that he must have gone straight to the throne room and said, ‘hey, do me a favor...’”
The house sits on of two properties that have been claimed for use by the church. “This home was the second property. We are still praying about what to do with the first one,” Edmonds said.
The finished women’s shelter will have beds for up to six residents, and will allow up to two children at a time. Harmon explained that cases with children involved will be considered high priority, with more effort to move them to another resource as soon as possible.
Much like at the men’s shelter, women will fill out an application and be given drugs tests and a background check. “We won’t be able to handle all situations, because some are just beyond our scope,” Funk said.
But for every person who comes to them for help, the group strives to do whatever they can. “There are so many situations... sometimes we send them to Roanoke to the mission, sometimes they just need a bus ticket to get home to their family. In abuse cases, we send them or have them call the Family Resource Center. The shelter will just give them another option,” said Harmon.
In addition to shelter, women will receive counseling, education, food, clothing and encouragement. “We will work on them in every aspect of the way,” said Shortridge.
Shortridge, Edmonds and teams of workers and volunteers are already working on renovations that the house will need before it can be used as a shelter. To bring it up to code, they will have to install all new windows, a handicap ramp, a new gutter system, insulation under the floor and a back road to the house.
“We are covering the whole nine yards,” Harmon said.
Funk estimated that it will cost between $15,000 and $20,000 to finish the job, but they have already received several discounts from local businesses, and offers from volunteers to help with construction.
“G.W. Hill has been a real asset to us, and Blevins Building Supply,” Shortridge said. “Numerous churches have asked me to let them help. Midway Baptist’s men’s fellowship offered to do work in the house, Grace Baptist and First Baptist — all of their youth wants to come and paint. It’s been a great outpouring from the community.”
The group was also proud that residents from their men’s shelter are lending a hand on the project.
Shortridge hopes that the crews can get work on the outside of the house finished before the weather gets too cold, then finish work on the inside. “Our goal to finish was sooner than March, but in a realistic way of looking at things, it all depends on the weather,” he said.
However, he isn’t counting out the chance of another miracle. “We could show up tomorrow, and find a big team of people ready to work and all of the materials we need... it happened to us once before,” he said, explaining that the men’s shelter was finished in a month and a half thanks to the unexpected volume of donations and help they received.
When asked what the public can do to help, Edmonds gave a list of supplies that they will need once the house is finished, including paper towels, toilet paper, hygiene products and canned goods with a long expiration date. Monetary donations and prayers are also appreciated.
The women’s shelter and men’s shelter will continue to operate under the umbrella of the Hope House ministry. Inquiries about either house should still be directed to the men’s shelter at 408 West Center Street, which also serves as the main office.

For more information about the Hope House, call (276) 236-7573 or visit www.galaxhopehouse.com