Savannah Corps wins $500K grant to upgrade Center of Hope
By: David Ibata
For a time this year, as the coronavirus outbreak forced many social service agencies into temporary hiatus, The Salvation Army Center of Hope was the only open homeless shelter in Savannah, Georgia.
The city recently rewarded that service to the community with a $500,000 grant that will make possible a top-to-bottom makeover of the Center of Hope with new furniture, kitchen appliances, laundry machines and heating and cooling equipment.
The funding, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, was announced Nov. 12 at an event attended by Salvation Army and city officials and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.).
“This grant gives us the opportunity to make necessary upgrades to the infrastructure of our Center of Hope and will ensure it runs much more efficiently,” said Major Paul Egan, Savannah Corps officer. “This gift is a huge blessing and will allow us to better serve the increased numbers of individuals who are coming through our doors due to the pandemic.”
Lawrence S. Haskell, director of development and public relations for the corps, said, “At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were the last man standing. The Salvation Army was here every day, dealing with people who needed to be given the best that could be given.”
The Army turned its men’s overnight shelter at the Center of Hope into a 24-hour operation; and, to accommodate families, opened a temporary shelter for women and children at its Bee Road Community Center and Gymnasium. The total number of guests zoomed to 135.
As the crisis eased and other shelters reopened, that figure has fallen to 86. With space freed up and separation possible, all are now staying at the Center of Hope. But the emergency took a toll on the already worn-out facility, which hasn’t been upgraded since the 1980s and is in serious need of repairs.
Besides the shelter, the center houses Salvation Army social services offices; the Pathway of Hope, which aids families seeking to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty; the six-month Work Therapy Rehabilitation Program for people with addiction issues; and free weekly health screenings in partnership with the J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center.
Plans call for renovations to the center’s three large, dormitory-style bathrooms; refurbished day and activity rooms; and new paint, furniture, lockers, sleeping arrangements and bedding for the family quarters. The kitchen will get a new dishwasher and – after two years going without because the corps lacked the funds for repairs – a new walk-in refrigerator and freezer.
Mechanical upgrades will include air conditioners, furnaces, blowers, ductwork and filtration systems. The center also will be getting six, new, commercial clothes washers and dryers. “We always used donated equipment that came out of people’s homes, but that just doesn’t fit the bill for the quantities of laundry we now have,” Haskell said.
And, for the safety of guests and staff, the building will get upgraded security with cameras throughout and a badged entry system.
Major Egan said, “These funds will go a long way in helping us meet the needs of those who come to us as we strive to continue to help change people’s lives for the better.”