Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) started off 2024 with a significant milestone in their “TIS-story.” This month marks their 15th anniversary of serving our homeless neighbors. The organization has been through quite a journey to get to this point.
Talbot Interfaith Shelter was formed in 2008 by a group of concerned members of Talbot County faith communities alarmed by a growing number of requests for assistance from those who were hungry, homeless, or about to become homeless. The group, led by founder Evelyn Sedlack, hoped to be able to fill the gap to provide a safe haven for families in need.
For five years, TIS was a “homeless” homeless shelter, rotating cots, blankets, supplies and support through Talbot’s faith congregations during the cold-weather months. Teams of volunteers from 19 faith communities came together to bring hot meals, drive guests to shower at the YMCA, make bagged lunches, and provide fellowship for the shelter’s guests. Guests had to leave in the morning and return in the evening to allow the churches and synagogue to conduct their regular business.
Due to fire code restrictions in the houses of worship, TIS was only able to house five individuals per night. This restriction, coupled with the fact that they could not provide daytime shelter or house people year-round, made it nearly impossible to help families under the rotating shelter model. The shelter began supporting one family at a time in an apartment rented to them in 2011.
Since the need far surpassed the organization’s capabilities, they began investigating buildings and properties, with an eye toward a permanent facility to allow them to function year-round. After looking at various properties in Easton, TIS leaders began negotiations in early 2014 to purchase Easton’s Promise, a former bed and breakfast at 107 Goldsborough Street.
That building, centrally located, with five en suite bathrooms, large dining and living areas and kitchen, offered a tremendous amount of flexibility. With an ever-changing population, having five private rooms with their own bathrooms enabled Talbot Interfaith to serve any combination of individuals who were present at a given time.
After receiving a permit to operate at Easton’s Promise in the summer of 2014, the shelter encountered some opposition and engaged in a lengthy legal process that challenged the validity of the permit. To ensure that they could continue serving our neighbors in need during the process, TIS leased Easton’s Promise from the owners and opened its doors on November 30, 2014. On September 15, 2016, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the shelter’s permit to operate at Easton’s Promise, allowing them to finalize the purchase of the building on November 2, 2016.
Having a permanent facility not only enabled TIS to serve more people, but it allowed guests to stay longer, giving them the opportunity to develop a program that would address homelessness and its root causes, rather than than simply giving guests a temporary reprieve.
Talbot Interfaith Shelter’s innovative S4 Program (Shelter, Stability, Support, Success) was designed to address the unique challenges of rural homelessness. The goal of S4 is to create sustainable change in the lives of local men, women, and children, providing them with access to services and tools that can help them break the cycle of poverty and homelessness to reclaim their independence.
The S4 Program incorporates shelter, rigorous case management, connection with local service providers, and life skills training to provide a full circle approach to homelessness. After launching the S4 Program, TIS began building partnerships with the Housing Commission of Talbot and several private landlords to procure more off-site transitional apartments. Moving from the shelter into transitional housing allows guests to move gradually towards full independence, providing a safety net along the way to ensure they will remain successful after leaving Talbot Interfaith Shelter.
For many years, the organization’s strategic plan included the prospect of a second shelter facility that would allow them to expand their capacity and help more neighbors facing homelessness. In the spring of 2020, when the COVID crisis began, TIS leadership anticipated devastating economic repercussions for many in our community. Even before eviction courts reopened, they were already receiving an influx of calls from local families and individuals in need of shelter.
In April of 2020, TIS began actively exploring ways to expand their capacity to accommodate more people and help them through the challenges of homelessness. After many months of discussions and planning, the solution presented itself… Directly next door to Easton’s Promise.
A large part of the success of the S4 Program thus far had been due to TIS’ unique shelter facility at Easton’s Promise. Both its homey atmosphere and its location in the center of town give guests an immediate sense of dignity and confidence and let them know that they are valued members of the community. Talbot Interfaith was thrilled to have found another such property at 109 Goldsborough Street, where guests would have a home and a sense of belonging. With seven bedrooms, three full baths, a kitchen, meeting space, laundry facilities, and more, this is a perfect setting for guests to regain stability as they work towards earning a spot in TIS’ transitional housing program.
Appropriately, on November 17, 2020, during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the Easton Board of Zoning Appeals (BOZA) voted unanimously to approve Talbot Interfaith Shelter’s permit to expand their services to 109 Goldsborough Street. Dozens of supporters from across the community submitted suggestions to name the new building, and more than 1,000 people voted for the winner, Evelyn’s Place, an homage to TIS’ founder, Evelyn Sedlack, whose compassion and perseverance was the catalyst for what Talbot Interfaith Shelter had grown to become. Evelyn’s Place was designated as a shelter for single men and women, while Easton’s Promise serves families with children.
On January 26, 2021, TIS finalized the purchase of their new shelter home, and on June 6, 2022 – fittingly, TIS Executive Director Julie Lowe’s birthday – Evelyn’s Place opened its doors for the first time. Within three weeks, every bed was filled with local men and women beginning their journey to self-sufficiency through the S4 Program.
In 2023, Talbot Interfaith Shelter served 112 people, including 27 single individuals and 19 families with 44 children. Of those served, one family graduated fully from the S4 Program and 16 single individuals and 8 families moved from the shelter into one of TIS seventeen transitional apartments or directly into their own housing. Guests attended classes on basic life skills, poverty, parenting, budgeting, job readiness, relationships, and the Six Pillars of Character. Case managers helped with everything from recovering lost paperwork or identification to applying for disability and reunifying families.
Executive Director Julie Lowe has been with the organization from the very first day. When asked about how it feels to be celebrating 15 years, she shared, “What TIS has become today, we owe to that small group of concerned citizens fifteen years ago, who saw their neighbors suffering and knew they had to do something to help. Out of that one meeting grew a community of thousands of volunteers and donors who have changed hundreds of lives for the better. It is incredible to watch our guests thrive and become more confident as they work to rebuild their lives, and we owe that all to this community and our amazing supporters.”
To learn more about Talbot Interfaith Shelter and how you can help, visit talbotinterfaithshelter.org or contact Julie Lowe at [email protected] or 410-310-2316.