Homeless shelter to open Monday

Published 10:07 am Thursday, October 13, 2016

Farmville’s first homeless shelter is set to open Monday.

According to Farmville Area Rescue Mission (FARM) President Johnna Shular, the shelter, located about three miles out of town, can house up to seven homeless people overnight.

The donation of use of the home helps FARM, which has been partnering with several churches in Farmville for overnight stays.

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For security reasons, FARM did not disclose the shelter’s specific location.

“A donor that we work work with, he wants to remain anonymous … He had a couple of houses in town. He lives in one, and he was going to sell one,” Shular said.

The mission of the shelter, Shular said, is to house homeless people overnight, with a long-term goal of housing them full time, along with keeping them in a safe, quiet environment.

The house will have two volunteer staff members during overnight stays, Shular said.

“What we did back in 2010 was we started meeting,” she said. “There were a couple ladies that felt the same way I did when they would look at the motels and the townsfolk would say, ‘That’s where people stay.’”

Along with four bedrooms, the house has a kitchen and large dining area, which Shular refers to as a fellowship area. FARM, a faith-based volunteer organization, provides cots, linens, hygiene packs, lunch packs and extra clothing for those who stay.

People seeking refuge at the house will be screened for criminal histories, as FARM has done in years past.

Churches that housed FARM clients on a rotating basis before the house was acquired included Farmville Presbyterian, Beulah AME, St. Johns Lutheran, Johns Episcopal and Meherrin Methodist.

“We’ve done it for six years in the churches,” Shular said, adding that the idea of the house has been well-received by town government. No zoning change or conditional use permit was required, according to Deborah Warner, a volunteer with FARM.

“Our goals is seven nights a week and up to seven people,” Shular reiterated.

Shular said she began her volunteerism for FARM and advocacy for the homeless after “seeing a need in the community.”

Town Manager Gerald Spates praised Shular and the organization for its work in the community.

“They dedicated a lot of time and effort in putting this together,” Spates said. “It’s the least we could do is support them. I think it’s definitely something that’s needed. We don’t get that many, but any’s too many. What they’re doing is a tremendous humanitarian effort on their part.”

“The more I’ve been in this … I’ve found that people leave their belongings under bridges all day until they find somewhere at night, or they sleep with their belongings,” Shular said, adding that she’s seen this happen in Farmville. She’s been told people sleep in the woods.

Based on a number of sources, Shular estimates that in 2015, 300 nights of shelter were needed to house Farmville’s homeless population.

She said the number is on the rise this year.

According to FARM, between Jan. 20 and March 6, the mission provided 167 shelter nights.

“We do have a (homelessness) problem … If you watch the streets, you’ll see them. If you go to the library, you’ll see them.”

Shular feels “very strongly” that once people know there’s a permanent place for overnight stays, “people will start calling.”

“Well, it will give us some beds for people who are homeless for a night or short term,” said Monroe Preston, chairman of The Prince Edward Salvation Army and vice president of the FARM. “At least it’ll be four beds more than what we have.”

He said the shelter will prove better than trying to get someone into a motel room. “We can get them into that shelter.”

For more information on the shelter or to donate, call (434) 390-5553, email jeshular@yahoo.com, write Farmville Area Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 213, Farmville, VA 23901, or visit https://www.gofundme.com/farmvillemission.