Families Still Face Struggles of Homelessness After Mid-Shore Shelter Season Ends

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His cane, whittled from an old tree limb, is a reminder of his recent struggles. Carl, a guest at Havens Ministries Cold Weather Emergency Shelter at Kent Island Methodist Church in Chester, found the limb while living as a homeless man in Queen Anne’s County this past fall.

Carl, comments, “I was living outdoors for several months before I went to Haven Ministries shelter in December. They are helping me now with temporary housing until I can get a place of my own again.”

Although Haven Ministries Cold Weather Emergency Shelter at Kent Island Methodist Church in Chester has closed for the season, the needs of the homeless individuals and families in Queen Anne’s County will continue to cry out to be met over the next seven months of this off-season for many rural shelters.

Sandi Wiscott, Director of Operations and Case Management at Haven Ministries works diligently throughout the shelter season, which runs from December 1through April each year, to connect each guest to jobs and community programs. Many guests are able to move on to safe and affordable housing.  If necessary, Haven Ministries continues to work with clients after the shelter closes for the season.

Wiscott adds, “In Carl’s case, we are trying to find housing for him, but affordable housing is limited in the county.  We sometimes need to manage other issues in our clients’ lives, like Social Security, medical issues, and transportation.”

Haven Ministries Street outreach is ongoing throughout the off-season. An average of 20 individuals and families are helped monthly through the Street Outreach Program. One client comments, “(Haven Ministries) Case Manager helped me access their case management services without judging me.”

This was the case for Carl who once was had a steady job as a mechanic and truck driver. After difficulties with his family, Carl found himself homeless and broken.  He states, “I never thought this would happen to me. I always made good money and had nice things.”

Carl spent nearly four months without the comforts of home – sometimes living in makeshift cardboard shelters, sleeping under pine trees, and eventually finding a lean-to on a property in the county. The nights were cold. He would get a shower once a week if he could at a local truck stop for $7.

Carl reflects, “I was wary of going to a shelter. I always thought of it as a place you didn’t want to be – keeping your boots on your chest and everything in your pockets.” He adds, “If it hadn’t been for Sandi Wiscott, I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you. They saved my life – they clothed me and fed me. I have gained about 35 pounds. She has helped me deal with my medical issues and helped me get eye glasses.  I hadn’t been to a doctor in 20 or more years. Now I realize my health is more important than anything.”

Carl suffers from circulation issues, COPD, skin cancer and has retina issues with his eyes. He needs transportation to get to doctor appointments and even needed someone to change dressings following his skin cancer surgeries. Sandi never walked away from him. He adds, “I have never met anyone like Sandi.”

In addition to finding solace at the shelter, Carl made friends with others there, referring to them now as his new family.

Between December 2015 and April 2016, 23 men, women, and children were served at the shelter. Over 140 dinners were prepared for every guest and volunteer who donated their time. To date, there are over 336 shelter volunteers who help at Haven Ministries.

In addition to providing food, shelter and clothing, Haven Ministries helps to heal the broken who come through its doors. For Carl, Haven Ministries gave him back his faith. He states, “They asked me if I would like to go to church. I said yes, realizing I had missed it. Being at the shelter brought my belief back. I was not a holy man and hadn’t talked to the Lord in 30 years. Now, I talk to him every day.”

Haven Ministries is currently diligently working towards establishing a permanent shelter location for year-round services and a home to be used for transitional housing.

On Sunday, May 15 at 3 p.m. Haven Ministries will sponsor a Luncheon Tea at Christ Church, 830 Romancoke Road in Stevensville. The cost is $35 per ticket. To purchase a ticket or for more information about the shelter and Haven Ministries Emergency Food Pantry or Daily Thread Thrift Store, visit haven-ministries.org or call Executive Director Krista Pettit at 410-739-4363.

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