WARM Ministry Continues Development

The Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry is moving forward, both with new officials in place and a timeline to open their new facility. In September, the Waynesboro city council approved plans for WARM to take over a facility off of Fairfax Avenue, which was owned by Presbyterian Homes and Family Services. Three months later, the group has directors in place and will soon close on the property.

Monday was the first day on the job for Debra Burns. The 30-year-old grew up in Waynesboro and came home this week to take over as WARM’s director of development and client services. Burns comes from Huntington, West Virginia, where she worked as a grant writer and also a domestic violence shelter coordinator for the Huntington Housing Authority.

“I’m jumping in with both feet,” Burns said. “When I moved back here, I was planning to just stay as a grant writer. But then I read that WARM was looking for a director and I reached out. I’m very passionate about helping the homeless.”

It’s an issue that Burns has been focused on since a young age. Growing up in Waynesboro and attending school here, one of her best friends didn’t have the most stable home situation, Burns said. As a result, the girl would move from Waynesboro schools to Staunton schools, depending on the situation.

“Growing up, I just wondered why she would move around like that,” Burns said. “Now I know she was at the homeless shelter with her family.”

That’s why she’s excited about Waynesboro’s new permanent shelter, Burns said, to help families and especially children adjust to their circumstances. Besides the physical relocation, Burns pointed out, children have to deal with moving to a new school system and a whole new environment.

Data provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development show that between 36,100 to 45,125 people were homeless at some point over the last year in Virginia. Out of that number, 50 percent lived in shelters, 32 percent lived in transitional areas and 18 percent were on the street.

Opening the new shelter

Part of the new job for Burns includes overseeing the permanent shelter. The plan is to use it as a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week temporary residence for homeless women and children. In addition to housing, the shelter would serve as a training facility for the women. Using volunteers recruited from the community, as well as other agencies and groups, the plan would be to offer financial management, parenting and job skill classes.

There are eight rooms for guests in the house, with two bedrooms for staff. Four of the bedrooms and two of the bathrooms are downstairs. Most of the renovations are complete, with one exception. There’s an unfinished basement that’s being turned into a kitchen and dining area.

To start off, Burns said the group feels the property is suited right now for four families. That includes four women and their children. She said those numbers may increase in the future, but not immediately.

In addition to the construction, Burns and the WARM board of directors are going through policies, determining what fits best for Waynesboro, after looking at how other shelters are run, including the one she came from in West Virginia.

On the financial side, WARM will close on the property and become official owners next week. The building will cost $200,000 to buy and WARM has raised more than $55,000 to go towards that. Part of the job for Burns will be to develop a long range financial plan for the shelter.

Switching gears

David Emery meanwhile had never heard of Waynesboro before this past year. Emery had worked as part of the Richmond Outreach Center, before a sickness sent him to the hospital in 2012, where he was in ICU for four months. During that time, Emery flatlined, before being resuscitated. Having served in ministry for seven years, Emery was ordained in January and then felt called to pack up from Richmond and head somewhere he had never been before.

“ I didn’t even know where Waynesboro was,” Emery said. “I was called to come here and so I was obedient and came.”

Emery took over Oct. 6 as WARM’s director of community services. He said he enjoys working with at the revolving shelter because he gets to connect with people. Emery contacts churches, asking for places to house the shelter on a rotating basis. He also handles check-in and helps serve meals at the shelter. The revolving shelter runs on a 16 week period from Thanksgiving until March 30. It’s open to anyone over 18. The reason for that, Emery said, is because the group doesn’t do background checks, so as a precaution, they don’t allow children in. This week the shelter is operating at Springdale Mennonite Church, 170 Hall School Road.

“What’s happened to these people, it could happen to anybody,” Emery said. “They’re just like you and I.”

By Brian Carlton, see original article here.

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