Help for homeless students, families

By Ashley Ramer

Transylvania County’s homeless population is growing at an alarming rate. It’s not very well known that Transylvania County has a homeless population, however; many of them reside in hidden campsites in places such as the Pisgah National Forest.

“At the moment we know for sure that 65 students are homeless in Transylvania county. By the end of the year, we normally more than double that number. Last year, we had 141 known cases. There are six known cases where families are currently camping,” said Beth Branagan, Transylvania County Schools’s social worker. “Many families are afraid to approach us due to the fear of getting their children taken away. That’s not what we do and it rarely happens.”

Conflict can play a major part in the number of homeless children in our country. Some run away from home, others are kicked out.

Another contributor to this issue are finances. It is possible to work three jobs and still have no money if you don’t understand how to budget your money. Classes to teach about budgeting are held in many places and signing up for one or two classes is highly encouraged.

With winter on its way, many people are struggling to keep warm. This is a huge issue when the weather drops below freezing. When this happens, a Code Purple is issued, made possible by many volunteers and leaders of the community. A Code Purple happens when temperatures drop and a warm place with a bed is provided to people without a home. Sometimes that bed may be a warm cot, other times it may be a soft pad on the floor, however, everyone is guaranteed to stay warm.

“We’re working on putting this all together,” said Jennifer Flood, director of the Haven.

The Sharing House has been giving away many blankets and jackets as an attempt to keep our homeless population warm; however, it’s still not enough.

“I remember back when I was working at the Sharing House, I had a family come in and we gave them blankets. The grandmother of the family just stood there, stroking the blanket like a little puppy, so I asked her, ‘Have you never had a new blanket before?’ She just stood there, shaking her head and smiling. So I went in the back, grabbed a brand new blanket, put five dollars on the counter, and gave it to her as a gift. I’d never seen someone smile so big in my life,” said Dawn Sentelle, former volunteer at the Sharing House.

The Sharing House also is the host of a program, called Adopt-A-Family. If you sign up to adopt a family at the Sharing House, you are bringing Christmas to a family who are unable to afford it.

The Haven has also made a huge effort in the past to keep everyone without these items warm. At the moment, there are 15 residents at the Haven, all very happy to have a place to lay their heads down at night. There is also a huge waiting list for more residents to come in.

“The Haven is a wonderful place,” said Emily Lowery, staff member of the Haven. “We’re all like a family here.”

Thanks to the Haven, many people without a place to live have gotten back on their feet.

The Haven, located at South Caldwell Street, is right next to the Bread of Life. The Bread of Life is Brevard’s soup kitchen and it helps provide food for many families. Volunteers are always welcome and needed, especially around Christmas, when Christmas dinner is served.

Food is always needed at the Bread of Life so there will always be enough for everyone. Anyone with extra canned goods, dry goods, and sometimes meat, are encouraged to donate it to the Bread of Life. They are currently serving 125 to 250 lunches per day.

Anyone with extra supplies, such as jackets, blankets, toilet paper, towels, and books are asked to drop them off at the Sharing House or Haven.

“I remember back in 2011 when Brevard High School hosted a toilet paper drive. To this day, we are still using that toilet paper and are just now starting to run low. That goes to show you that when that school puts their minds to something, they’ll get it done,” said Lowery.

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