On Sunday Jane and I learned about another organization that is doing wonderful work to help the homeless and hungry, thereby helping many vulnerable children. Katrina Knight, the executive director of the Good Shepherd Center in Wilmington, shared the sermon on Sunday with a pastor at our church— St. Andrews Covenant—and provided an information session at a luncheon following the service. The center sponsors a variety of programs that provide meals, shelter, counseling, and affordable housing for low-income individuals and families.
Good Shepherd Center began as a soup kitchen in 1983. Today the center provides breakfast and lunch five days each week to anyone who needs food as well as a dinner meal seven nights a week for those staying in its Night Shelter. The center’s Soup Kitchen feeds as many as 100 hungry men, women, and children at breakfast, 150 at lunch, and 70 at dinner. It provides more than 70,000 hot meals to low-income Wilmington residents each year.
As in most communities, Wilmington’s homeless include every racial, ethnic, and educational background. They are single people, families with children, and veterans; many homeless adults have physical disabilities and mental health issues. People in the Wilmington area must earn about $13 an hour to afford a modest, 2-bedroom apartment, which is almost double the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Good Shepherd provides overnight shelter to the homeless, but its staff work diligently with guests to identify and overcome the obstacles that are preventing them from securing and retaining housing. They help shelter residents to set and reach such goals as ensuring continuity of children’s schooling, re-establishing or increasing their household income, and identifying affordable housing opportunities.
The center also has a transitional living facility. Its 18-month program offers homeless veterans with a history of substance abuse both housing and supportive services to overcome their addictions and become self-supporting. While living in a therapeutic community setting, these veterans concentrate initially on maintaining their sobriety and participating in individual and group counseling sessions as well as attending community AA/NA meetings. They also work to achieve employment and educational goals, volunteer at Good Shepherd and elsewhere in the community, and seek to prepare for and find full-time jobs.
Especially notable is Good Shepherd’s $5-million project that will soon furnish 40 apartments on four acres of land adjacent to Greenwood Lake. The complex will supply both affordable housing and supportive services to chronically homeless single adults with physical disabilities or mental health problems who have some form of income—disability benefits, SSI, or income from limited employment. No more than 30% of their income will be charged for rent, allowing residents to pay for other necessities such as food, medication, transportation, and insurance. In addition, they will receive counseling and transportation.
Jane and I plan to volunteer with the Good Shepherd Center after my retirement in May and as she regains the mobility she lost as a result of her stroke in December.