Six years after the idea was born to help Statesboro’s homeless, the Open Hearts Community Mission homeless shelter is open for business.
In what is often called a “soft opening,” the 30-bed shelter at 201 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive began accepting people in July, but the grand opening and dedication ceremony will be Sunday, said Delia Mobley, chairwoman of the Open Hearts Community Mission board.
“We have been working on this a long time, and it is here,” she said.
The dedication will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, at the mission. There will be a reception and a tour, and parking is plentiful across the street, she said.
Six years ago, a “grassroots” effort between area churches, civic clubs, businesses and individuals decided to take action to help the area’s homeless people. While many may not realize it, there is a significant population of homeless persons in Statesboro. “Camps” have been located behind retail complexes and wooded areas, according to past reports from Statesboro police.
Donations and fundraisers such as the annual Chocolate Run foot race enabled the group that became Open Hearts Community Mission to construct the building, but before that, the group helped place homeless people in area hotels and other locations. Mobley said the mission has helped up to 16 people at a time, and the shelter will enable them to double that number.
There are requirements for potential residents, however. No drugs or alcohol are allowed, period, and those who are able must seek employment while they stay at the mission, she said.
“This is a hand up, not a handout.”
Those seeking help who have addiction issues are also helped through efforts to get them counseling and other services even though they are not allowed to stay at the shelter unless sober.
The mission will operate under leadership of executive director Jim Lewis and supervision of the board of directors.
To contact the Open Hearts Community Mission homeless shelter, call (912) 623-2528.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.