From the Carroll News
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For more than 20 years, a local place has kept its doors open for those with nowhere else to turn.
Founded in 1987, the Hostel of the Good Shepherd has welcomed local and out-of-area homeless, giving them the opportunity to straighten out their situation and get back on their feet. Since 1989, the homeless have stayed at the newly-renamed Galax Hope House.
“The hostel has been here since 1987,” said Executive Director Deborah Payne. “It was actually started by the Lutheran Episcopal congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd. When they started it, they were giving places for people to sleep in the Sunday school rooms in the church. They saw such a need that they decided to buy this property and set it up as a hostel. They bought the house in 1989, and incorporated in 1993.”
Payne came on board as Executive Director in January and has taken an active role in renovating the house, located at 408 W. Center Street in Galax. The interior has been repainted, the porch has been repaired and a new handicapped-accessible ramp is being installed. New floors are in two rooms and new lights have been installed. Payne said the next steps include new kitchen and laundry appliances, as well as any other needed repairs and upgrades.
The home is operated by the Hostel of the Good Shepherd corporation. Until last week, the Hope House shared the same name.
“It’s a little easier to understand than hostel,” Payne said. “This is not really a hostel; a hostel is a place where you can have a very inexpensive place to stay, and this is a homeless shelter. We’re changing name of site, not the organization. The organization will remain Hostel of the Good Shepherd, Inc.”
Payne said the home is trying to raise awareness locally, which she said she feels will help its mission. That’s another reason for the name change, to help raise the home’s local profile.
“I have spoken to people in Galax and in Carroll and Grayson who didn’t know it was here and it’s been here 20 years,” Payne said. “We want people to be aware of what it’s here for. We do not allow drunkards and alcoholics to stay here. We’re trying to clean it up so people can see it’s a nice residence.”
Payne said at any given time, 15 people can stay at the house and there’s room for single folks or families. Payne said from January to June, 28 people have stayed at the hostel for as briefly as a day or as long as the full six months.
“An average stay lasts around 60 to 90 days,” Payne said. “That allows them time to get back on their feet and decide what they want to do and where they want to live.”
Payne said any potential resident has to undergo a strict screening process. She said the candidates have to be medically and psychologically stable and they have to agree to abide by the house rules, have nowhere else to stay, and be willing to work on finding a permanent dwelling and re-establishing their independence.
“We have an emergency shelter program and a transitional living program,” she said. “We have emergency shelter offered up to 5 days, and a transitional program, where they can stay up to 6 months if they’re working toward goals. To be able to get in, they have to a drug/alcohol test and current background check. We go through a pre-interview process and make sure we can work with them.”
Payne said the home gets referrals from different area agencies, ranging from hospitals to law enforcement and churches and several former residents have gone on to better themselves.
“One came in and he worked hard and got his GED. Now he’s trying to sign up for classes at Wytheville. He’s got a Pell Grant and he’s trying to get into the construction field,” Payne said. “We had a gentleman who just got a job. Two that are now out on their own got jobs at Results. We’ve helped several get apartments or trailers or other types of housing.”
Payne said donations are what keep the home going and anything, as long as it’s usable, is welcome. Recently, the hostel received $3,000 from the Diocese of the Good Shepherd and got two grants from DHCD.
She said donations can be brought by the hostel or monetary gifts can be mailed to: Hostel of the Good Shepherd, 408 W. Center Street, Galax, VA 24333. Those who are interested in helping in any way can call 236-7573.
“We accept donations of usable clothing, furniture, food that is nonperishable and within date, anything that helps with household, especially paper goods and supplies,” Payne said. “We’ll provide information to churches if they want to do a supply drive. We can allow them to adopt a month so they can help us pay utility bills. We’ll take anything as long as it’s usable and in good condition.”