The Catherine H. Barber Memorial Homeless Shelter has been closed and without a home for nearly a week but is scheduled to reopen Sunday evening in a temporary location at 3200 Statesville Road (N.C. 115) near North Wilkesboro.
Liz Huffman, shelter board president, said Wednesday that the shelter will temporarily be on the second floor of a building belonging to Crossfire United Methodist Church, directly above the church sanctuary. This is the former Lovette Egg Co. property, just north of the intersection of N.C. 115 and Edgewood Road.
Huffman said the shelter will open on the Crossfire property at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. She said it will provide temporary overnight housing from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. each day of the week.
“We are grateful and honored that this wonderful church has asked us to come be with them,” said Huffman. “It is most certainly an answer to many prayers from many people.”
She said the shelter board isn’t being charged rent but is responsible for all operating costs associated with running the temporary shelter at the new site. The temporary shelter will have 12 beds but can expand to as many as 20, said Huffman.
Shelter board members said earlier that the shelter had outgrown its former facility at 86 Sparta Road (N.C. 18 North) in North Wilkesboro. That facility, a house, could accommodate about 10 people and had only a small space for entire families.
The shelter board received a letter on Aug. 27 from Betty Byrd, owner of the house at 86 Sparta Road, asking it to vacate that location by Oct. 1. The shelter had been there about three decades.
“I have determined that my facility can no longer meet your growing needs in your mission to assist the homeless community of Wilkes County and would be better suited to a smaller nonprofit that better fits my values and vision for the community,” stated Byrd in the letter.
After the eviction letter was received, the shelter board and Byrd were unable to negotiate a temporary extension. The shelter board moved what it owned out of the house at 86 Sparta Road on Saturday.
Huffman provided the Wilkes Journal-Patriot a written statement from Dr. Alan Rice, Crossfire’s pastor, saying, “At Crossfire we believe God has surely directed us to be about this ministry with the homeless with the CHBMS (Catherine H. Barber Memorial Shelter) ministry and have demonstrably said so together. On Sunday, Sept. 8, when asked who wanted the homeless ministry to begin, there was 100% affirmation and praise. At CHBMS on Friday evening, Sept. 13, they too unanimously agreed and testified as well that this is surely of God.”
Huffman said, “This space is so exciting and offers so many possibilities. We are additionally thrilled to be in an environment that already offers outreach and recovery programs to those in need.”
She said the shelter board “would like to sincerely express their appreciation to the entire Crossfire Church family and everyone that has diligently prayed and supported the shelter.”
As a self-described “biker church,” many of the members of Crossfire own or have an interest in motorcycles. Listed on the church’s website (bikerchurch.com) are outreach programs related to community gardening, firewood for the needy, handyman jobs and “Overcomer’s Outreach.”
Huffman said Crossfire members Andy and Fran Harvey and other members of the church came to the former shelter site at least once a week, bringing meals and words of hope and encouragement to the homeless.
“This isn’t about (Crossfire), but rather it’s all about (the shelter). And while they want no recognition for their selfless efforts, they certainly deserve so much,” she added.
The shelter board had planned to build a larger facility at 108 Sparta Road, North Wilkesboro, not far from the house it vacated Saturday.
Those plans were scrapped in August after the North Wilkesboro Zoning Board of Adjustment denied the shelter board’s request for two zoning variances and a conditional use permit needed for the shelter to be built on the 1.6-acre site, next to Beulah Presbyterian Church. Numerous residents and other property owners in that area opposed construction of a homeless shelter at 108 Sparta Road.
The town’s homeless shelter ordinance prohibits a new homeless shelter from being within 250 feet of property zoned or used for residential purposes. It also says a new homeless shelter must have access to a public sidewalk.
The town ordinance doesn’t apply to Crossfire, which has a North Wilkesboro mailing address but is outside the town’s extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction.
Huffman said Wednesday, “We still plan to seek a permanent home in the future. For now, we are welcomed and under no pressure to move. The homeless have a safe place to be and that was our immediate concern.”
The shelter board is raising funds to build a 40-bed facility with three separate large bedrooms for men, women and families, with separate bathrooms for each bedroom. The new shelter is planned to have a resource center for job hunting and expanded kitchen and laundry rooms.
As of Thursday, $131,975 of the shelter board’s $500,000 goal for a new shelter had been raised on the crowdsourcing website CrowdRise, a subsidiary of GoFundMe.
On its Facebook page, the shelter board listed potential options for people needing temporary overnight shelter until the Barber homeless shelter reopened at a temporary site. These were:
• Salvation Army Transitional Shelter at 760 Third Avenue Place Southeast in Hickory, 828-322-8061;
• Fifth Street Ministries at 1421 Fifth Street in Statesville, 704-872-4045;
• the Ark at 130 Hill Street, Elkin, 336-527-1637; and
• Hospitality House at 338 Brook Hollow Road in Boone, 828-264-1237.
Huffman said people can call the new temporary shelter at 336-838-7120 or 346-984-1592 or go to wilkeshomelessshelter.com for more information about the temporary shelter at Crossfire.