Church’s bold plan for homeless vets
Whole Man Ministries has launched an ambitious project to help local veterans get — and stay — on their feet.
Five duplexes on Cameron Avenue will soon be home to as many as 10 residents through the Home for Our Heroes program, a permanent housing solution for area veterans.
“It was a concern of mine when I saw a number of vets not having a place to stay,” said Whole Man Pastor Barry Washington, who volunteers at Samaritan Ministries several times a year and operates food and clothing ministries through the church. “With the way the economy has turned, so many people have gone through difficult times, and we found that there’s more people who are homeless because of that, but it’s stressed even more when you’re talking about somebody who has served.”
The church is considering making some of the properties available to low income tenants as well, Washington said. Organizers are hoping to open the doors of at least one building on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Whole Man is working with Veterans Helping Veterans Heal and other area agencies to identify veterans in the local community who might benefit from the project, which will include supportive services for the tenants.
Since its inception in 2006, Whole Man has engaged in a variety of ministries to serve community members who have fallen on hard times, from inmates to members of the homeless community, but the Home for Our Heroes is its largest project to date.
“We’re talking about refurbishing them from the bottom to the top — windows, doors, everything — and making it energy efficient,” Washington said. “…I don’t want to just patch it. I think that’s a disservice to the community. We want to revitalize this area and bring some life back into Northeast Winston, and so we want to do an excellent job.”
The properties that will be rehabbed were built between 1938 and 1940. They have historic designation, and were constructed using bricks made by legendary brick maker George Black. The homes were set to be torn down before the church scooped them up earlier this summer. Washington said they are a tangible depiction of the positive change organizers hope to foster through the project.
“The character of it I thought it represented the character of a fallen soldier,” he commented. “If we can refurbish it and reform it, then we can also refurbish a fallen soldier.”
All told, rehabilitating the 1,200-square-foot buildings will likely cost around $500,000; organizers say they are confident that they will find the donations and in-kind support needed to make Home for Our Heroes a reality.
“We have learned as an organization to start with what we have and build from that point,” said Minister Kenneth Holly, director of Operations and Ministry Relations for Whole Man. “I am always reminded of how Jesus took two fishes and five loaves of bread and fed more than 5,000 people. It takes a community of people coming together, building from within to make this project sustainable. Whole Man Ministries has established a culture of collaborations and partnerships to ensure that it will have a great impact in the community.”
The project has already amassed a respectable list of supporters, from Lowes Home Improvement and Home Depot stores, to Gwyn Inc., which agreed to help out with heating and air conditioning needs; and The Roof Solution, which has pledged some in-kind roofing donations to the project. Students in Forsyth Technical Community College’s carpentry program have also agreed to lend their expertise to the project. Minister Pecolia Breathette called the support thus far encouraging.
“It has been very exciting and fruitful,” she remarked. “People we’ve contacted have been delighted to help out. They wanted to be a part of it too.”
The project’s most pressing need is for donated services or products that could rid the buildings of lead paint so organizers won’t have to seek federal dollars, which could carry stipulations that could impede the mission of the project. Breathette, a retired Winston-Salem State University employee, said she is proud to be a part of the effort, which she believes will be a source of healing and hope for veterans and the community at large.
Though the task ahead is arduous, Washington said he is confident the group will get the project off the ground, and the veterans into their new homes on time.
“What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of people to do something good,” he said. “Jesus took 12 men and turned the whole world upside down. A few committed folks can do a whole lot of good for the community. We’re a small church, but with an enormous impact because we don’t mind putting our hands to the plow.”