The Salvation Army in Concord is holding a land dedication today, June 4, for its anticipated Center of Hope.
The Salvation Army’s Picture Hope Capital Campaign is a fundraising campaign to build a 16,000-square-foot shelter in Concord to serve Cabarrus and Stanly counties.
The 64-bed emergency shelter is critical to the health of the community and will provide six family living quarters, double the number of beds for women, and increase the beds for men by three.
Most important, the increased space will allow The Salvation Army to expand services and programs that meet the immediate needs of shelter residents while providing in-depth casework and programs designed to help break the cycle of poverty and prevent future episodes of homelessness.
The fundraising for the shelter kicked off in September 2019 and is ongoing. The project is currently at 73% of its $7 million goal.
The campaign has reached a fundraising milestone to break ground this fall. The community land dedication today will celebrate reaching that milestone. The event falls on National Doughnut Day so, of course, doughnuts will be served.
The Salvation Army's current shelter has eight female and 16 male beds, with one family room, but the family has to use the female bathroom as well. And the family room is limited to a maximum of four children due to size. With 540 homeless students in Cabarrus County schools, there are several families in need of shelter, said Lt. Amanda Keaton, Corps officer. That number has increased since the 2018-19 school year, when it was 470 homeless students. And since The Salvation Army shelter is the only emergency shelter in the county, it needs more beds.
Keaton said the shelter receives multiple calls daily for people needing shelter, especially families. The current shelter has a capacity of 28 people, but the new Center of Hope would increase it to 62 emergency shelter beds. The new shelter also will have a separate living area, bedrooms and bathrooms for the family units. There will also be computers in the common areas to help clients search for jobs and for kids to complete their school work.
Since the pandemic, The Salvation Army has seen the desperate need for more beds. When the pandemic first hit in 2020, the shelter didn't see an increase in calls or clients because of the stay-at-home order. But around the end of August, it started to see about a 25% uptick in calls from people needing shelter. Of the calls, about 40-50% were families. Keaton said 60% of low-income households struggle to pay expenses, and the job loss caused by the pandemic made it worse.
"With housing, I know every day we get multiple calls a day of people facing eviction," Keaton said.
Both Zumper and Rent Cafe show that rent in Concord has increased since 2017, and the current average rent is about $1,200 for a two-bedroom apartment, which puts the city close to Charlotte's average rent prices.
That increase, Keaton said, has led to the shelter receiving more calls over the years, and greater concerns over where families and individuals will end up after leaving.
The shelter partners with city of Concord, Prosperity Unlimited, United Way, Opportunity House, Community Link, Cooperative Christian Ministries and Refuge Transitional House to find next steps for clients once they leave.
The city of Concord has identified the affordable housing crisis in the city and has put 1 cent of its tax aside for affordable housing. It also helped establish the Concord Family Enrichment Program for housing.
The Salvation Army offers several life skills classes for its clients, but with the new shelter, Keaton said, the organization will be able to offer more financial, life skills and career classes.
"We want them to be self-sustaining," Keaton said.
The Salvation Army also plans to offer mental health services for clients through Cabarrus County and Rowan County Community Health Center, a service that has not previously been offered.
"It is hard for those with mental disabilities and mental health concerns because they are in the hospital, but then they are sent straight to us after they are released," Keaton explained. "We want to meet needs at and beyond the shelter."
Once the Center of Hope is built, the current shelter will remain not only for shelter but for the soup kitchen and to offer classes and health resources.
Those interested in making a donating for the new shelter can go to picturehopecampaign.org.
The land dedication will start today at 8 a.m. at The Salvation Army of Cabarrus and Stanly counties, 216 Patterson Ave. SE, Concord.