One-day homeless shelter searching for new location after community controversy

Neighbors expressed concern about the shelter's operations. Now, Living Hope must find a new place to serve the homeless.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 9:08 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Many homeless individuals in Downtown Wilmington rely on a one-day shelter that offers food to them once a week.

Living Hope, the organization who runs it, recently found out that they can’t utilize their current space anymore and they only have a few months to find a new spot.

Operating at 411 Red Cross St., Living Hope has been utilizing every Wednesday for nearly two years to feed people who can’t afford to feed themselves. They team up with Hope Recovery United Methodist Church, the Feast Gathering, and The Anchor United Methodist Church to provide food.

The owner of the current location just gave them notice that they can’t use the property anymore, effective in a few months.

Organizers were eyeing a new location at a unused church on the corner of 4th and Church streets, but a week before the doors were supposed to open to the homeless on March 9, 20 homeowners wrote a letter to halt the plan for the one-day shelter.

The residents who live by the church stated that their concerns were based on the logistics of the shelter.

The letters weren’t the only reason why the shelter didn’t open at 425 S Fourth St, we’re told that there were internal issues as well.

Interim Wilmington City Attorney Meredith Everhart wrote back to the concerned neighbors saying in part:

We spoke with the neighbors, who told us that they were primarily upset that they weren’t notified about the shelter from the church group themselves. Instead, they learned about the shelter from word of mouth. They restated their worries about cleanliness and if it would be kept up with on the days the shelter isn’t open.

Jaime Mendez, Covenant Church pastor, believes that this issue shouldn’t have gone this far.

“When places like this are struggling to find spots in order to love people who find themselves in those situations, it really should kind of break our hearts a little bit. We would honestly just say that we’re kind of heartbroken that these are even questions that we need to find answers for right now,” said Mendez.

The long-term goal for Living Hope is to help feed the homeless seven days a week, but that isn’t possible right now due to a lack of funding.

“We’ve been meeting other church leaders and different people, landlords trying to figure out, we really want to maintain a space in the downtown district, because that’s where all of our friends are. And I think it’s essential to be down here. And so we’re just trying to use our network to figure out what might be available,” said Tony Perez, director of Living Hope.

He is confident, however, that they will find a prime location in the downtown area where they will be able to provide meals to those who need them.