Walter Green says he would be homeless, living under the nearby Person Street bridge, if it weren’t for the new transitional Manna Dream Center men’s shelter.
The ribbon-cutting for the 2,800-square-foot facility was held Friday in front of the shelter on Person Street.
“The people who visit this shelter are very important to us,” Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin said in his opening remarks. “They’re our neighbors, our friends, our relatives. And one day they could be either of us or someone needing just a hand up. We’ve all been in this position to rely on others and none of us can do it’’ in and of ourselves.
“This shelter is quite simply a goal achieved,” he said. “The city’s strategic plan has been intentional to have the governmental resource’s support of diverse and viable economy. The Dream Center‘s location is an investment in our community. It will help us increase the quality of life for those who come through the doors of this facility.”
Clients can also receive referrals to mental health services, employment and permanent housing. It is a center, the mayor said, where victims of domestic violence can be helped.
“This is a place where people will be recognized for the value they have in our community and in our society,” Colvin said. “We will continue to encourage growth and transformation.”
The location previously operated as the HOPE Center, which closed after the COVID-19 pandemic started. Manna Church provides staff and other services for operations to resume.
The city, which owns the shelter and pays for utilities, has spent just under $40,000 on renovations and improvements, Fayetteville staff said.
Cassy Funkhouser is the shelter administrator.
“I stayed here when it was the HOPE Center,” Green said.
The 62-year-old native of Rome, New York, has been staying at the new Manna Dream Center since it opened to temporary residents just before Christmas.
Actually, he found refuge there in early December when the shelter opened temporarily for White Flag night in the midst of a stretch of jarring cold weather.
White Flag nights are when a shelter allows homeless individuals inside to give them a warm place to stay when the weather is 32 degrees or lower or in the event of inclement weather.
“I think it’s one of the best things that came in my life – Manna Church. ‘Cause they’re my family,” said Green, as he waited in a line of men who were being offered chips, cookies, candy and brownies by Manna staff.
He has been homeless, he said, for not even a year.
The church and the city have formed a partnership in the operation of the center as an overnight shelter for men who need food, laundry, hair and shower services. Lunch is available to anyone in need of a meal Monday through Friday.
Women are able to use the shelter during the morning for shower and laundry services. Men who do not stay overnight can use the shelter during the afternoon for shower and laundry services.
Green is one of 17 men staying in the shelter. There is room for three more residents; the center has 10 bunk beds that sleep 20 people.
On White Flag nights, the shelter can accommodate up to 26 individuals.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been a lot of partnership with the city,” said Ed Robillard, who is director of the two Manna Dream Centers in Fayetteville. The other one is at 336 Ray Ave.
Robillard told some of the 60 people who were on hand for the grand opening that five of the men who had been staying at the facility since its permanent opening have landed jobs. That brought a smattering of applause.
Guests generally check-in between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., and they’re able to take showers, do laundry, sit down and eat at the tables and watch television.
“This is their home for right now,” he said. “It’s not their permanent home. It’s 90 to 180 days, depending on how long it takes them to get housing and jobs. But it’s a safe, secure place out of the elements.”
The men are able to stay at the shelter until about 6:15 in the morning. At that point, Robillard said, they are able to get breakfast from Operation Inasmuch on Hillsboro Street.
“At 9 o’clock, we open the doors for women to come in,” he said. “This is a men’s shelter. The women come in and take showers and do laundry. We have ‘serve team’ members here meeting with them, building relationships to help them move forward in their lives, as well.”
Starting at noon, lunch is available from the center. Robillard said it’s a simple lunch most days. Maybe a sandwich, soup, potato chips, snacks.
“A lunch like I would grab on the way out the door. Nothing fancy,” he said. “Once a week, we make sure we have a hot meal that’s special.”
At 2 p.m., staff brings in the men who are not staying at the shelter and they can take showers and do laundry.
“And we can build relationships with them. That’s an important part,” Robillard said. “We’re not just serving 20 men. We’re trying to serve the community.
“We squeeze everything we can out of this building, believe me. Every little ounce we can,” Robillard said.
Through a Manna Church partnership with Fayetteville Technical Community College, he said, the school is working to help prepare homeless men for jobs.
He said he often gets the question: How do we address homelessness?
“And I say, ‘It’s not one answer.’ We may have 360 homeless people in the Cumberland County and Fayetteville area. It’s about 360 answers. They’re individuals.”
Every Sunday night, Robillard said, the shelter holds a team meeting with the men who are staying overnight. “We talk to them about character issues. We talk to them about how to move forward in life. And that’s what we do,” he said.
The king’s closet, which is what staff calls the clothes closet, is where men’s and women’s clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, underwear, socks, jeans and sweatshirts are stored.
The laundry room has two washers and a couple of dryers. Two picnic tables have been set up in the backyard.
Nathalia Ortiz, a 19-year-old member of the church’s serve team, was handing out snacks Friday. She attends the biblical higher education institution Manna University, where she is majoring in intercultural studies. Her volunteer work at the Manna Dream Center is part of her internship.
“I think it helps bring community service,” she said of the men’s shelter. “I necessarily wouldn’t have done outreach if it wasn’t for the service team here. And I love how quick we are in serving and getting resources out to those in need.”
The partnership between Manna Church and the city “is just one step city leaders and staff are taking to address the physical and mental needs of homeless and destitute individuals this year,” states a city news release. “Renovations are underway at 128 South King Street for a Day Resource Center which is expected to open in 2023.”
Individuals and businesses who want to participate and offer health and counseling services at the King Street location are asked to call 910-433-1590.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.