New thrift store to fund homeless shelter

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lifting Lives Ministries’ shelter-in-progress at the old Hillcrest Motel on U.S. 80 isn’t ready to receive homeless families yet due to a standstill in funding, but the program is finding places for homeless families to stay and helping them get back on their feet, the program’s lead executive said Tuesday.

“We are out of funding,” executive director Joel Dimmette told the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club. “We haven’t been able to help any families since March, and we get a lot of calls. We do have a budget, and we’re trying to keep a budget going.

“We were overwhelmed by families when we started renovating, and we just couldn’t turn families away. What we started doing was getting them temporary housing from anywhere from two days to a week.

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“What a lot of people do not know is that in 2013, and for the first part of this year, we’ve served a little over 120 families in temporary sites across the city.”

The ministry is renovating the dilapidated motel at U.S. 80 and Mississippi 27 to be able to serve 110 people, or 20 families.

Counselors and social workers are helping Lifting Lives work with the families to determine their needs and help the ministry find ways to assist the families and help them become independent, Dimmette said.

As for the shelter project, work has “slowed,” Dimmette said, adding the building “sits at about 90 to 92 percent done. There’s some rotted wood to be torn out, there’s some painting and spackling to be done. It sits there, mainly because we are still addressing problems.”

One problem, he said, involves building a new kitchen to meet the shelter’s goal of serving 20 families.

“We have to build a new kitchen. The health department says it has to be done,” he said. “Our kitchen pretty much doubled our old renovation budget. We have to do a new kitchen from the foundation up. And that required a new architectural design and new safety equipment.”

Funding, he said, is tight, adding the ministry, like other community agencies needs financial help.

One thing that will help, he said, is The Warehouse, the ministry’s new thrift store that opened April 12 at the corner of Old Highway 27 and Paxton Road. He said the store is an upscale thrift store that will also serve as a new products liquidation store.

“The business will become a great funding source, and help morale because it will provide funds to complete renovations and open the hotel,” he said.

Lifting Lives Ministries was formed in 2012 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to meet the needs of homeless families.

He said several hotels in Vicksburg gave the ministry discounts or special rates to house homeless families in rooms.

“They give us good rooms, we try to choose places that are not going to have a drug problem, and we try to serve families in those ways,” he said.

“We set out with a grand vision to transform the old Hillcrest Hotel into a shelter,” he said. “Family homelessness is best addressed with an older hotel or apartment complex, because families need a secure central environment, but they also need privacy.”

He said the hotel meet the ministries’ needs.

“That’s why we chose the location and met zoning requirements, “ he said. “We fell right into it, we didn’t have to disturb anybody with bringing in a type of facility into their community that they didn’t want.” The renovated facility, he said, would provide families with the private space they needed with a common dining facility.

Lifting Lives Ministries plan to take on 20 families was too ambitious, Dimmette said, but the delay to get the shelter ready has given officials time to work with local agencies, work with homeless families “and get the word out that we’re not going to snatch their kids away, we’re not here to hurt people and are here to help homeless people.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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