Help Hub at Harrelson Center
Today was the first time I volunteered as an intake counselor at the Help Hub housed at the Harrelson Center on the edge of downtown Wilmington, which I will be doing once a month. The Help Hub is one of eleven ministries that occupy the renovated former New Hanover County jail. Having so many ministries in the same building facilitates coordinating services to help Wilmington residents who are struggling with inadequate income, addictions, domestic violence, finding jobs, especially after being incarcerated, and other problems. The Help Hub provides “short-term or emergency assistance to individuals and families in need of financial help and/or guidance to connect [them] with additional resources.” It is supported financially by twelve Wilmington congregations, including St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church, where my wife and I are the co-directors of Go and Serve, SACPC’s mission program.
At 9 a.m. Sonja McFarland, the Help Hub director, another intake counselor, and I joined hands and prayed with a dozen adults and children who were waiting in the lobby to meet with us to discuss their financial needs. During the next three hours, we met with fifteen clients. I interviewed seven men and women: a woman with two children who asked for bus passes to get to work; a man who had recently been released from prison and requested help paying his rent; a woman with two children who wanted assistance with her rent; a woman who was seven-months pregnant who asked the Help Hub to pay her phone bill; a woman whose husband had recently suffered a crippling injury who needed help paying her electric bill; a homeless man who wanted the Help Hub’s assistance with renting a room; and a woman who needed help to pay her fees at a facility for individuals dealing with addiction issues. Several other clients also received bus passes. Meeting with these individuals is simultaneously exhilarating and emotionally draining. It is heart-breaking to hear their life stories, but comforting to be able to provide a small amount of financial assistance at a tough time in their lives.
These clients were black and white, young and old, married, engaged, and single. Several of them had jobs, mostly in the food industry. The others were either receiving disability payments or looking for jobs. Their criminal record, lack of education, limited social skills, and life experiences make it very difficult for them to find jobs that pay a livable wage. None of them is working 40 hours a week, although several want to do so. The Help Hub tries to enable them to avoid a crisis—being evicted or homeless, having their utilities or phones shut off, or not having transportation to work or medical facilities. It also refers them to other organizations that furnish job training, provide clothing, aid those who have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused or trafficked, supply bikes for children, and help children succeed in school. To improve the lives of children, we must help equip their parents to have jobs that pay better, deal with addiction issues, avoid criminal activities, and care for their families more effectively. Doing this is very challenging, but many impressive organizations in Wilmington are working together to further this goal.