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Open Door Ministries continues to grow

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Open Door Ministries

Open Door Ministries

Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Created through the merger of two organizations that were started by churches and focused on serving the basic needs of people facing tough times, Open Door Ministries in High Point has grown by expanding its focus to helping people move beyond their current challenges and living conditions.

Urban Ministry of High Point was formed in 1969 by a group of downtown churches to provide financial assistance, a soup kitchen, clothing, a pantry and counseling for people who turned to the churches for their basic needs.

Open Door Shelter was formed in 1982 by Grace Church when it was offering church services in the old YMCA building downtown and its parishioners saw homeless people who needed a play to stay at night.

The two agencies occupied a building built for them in 1991, with Urban Ministry serving lunch and Open Door Shelter serving the evening meal.

And they merged in 1995 after the executive director of Urban Ministry resigned.

Today, with an annual budget of $1.5 million and a staff of 30 employees, including 12 working full-time, Open Door Ministry operates a homeless shelter for men, transitional-housing program for men, soup kitchen, permanent supportive-housing program, emergency financial assistance program, and housing stabilization program.

It also is getting ready to launch a day center to help some of its homeless clients acquire basic job skills.

The homeless shelter for men serves 600 different individuals a year, while the transitional-housing program, which can handle up to 14 individuals at any given time, serves about 25 to 30 men a year for up to two years, with the typical client taking about a year to complete the program.

The transitional-housing program provides case managers 24 hours a day, as well as a structured program for behavioral and cognitive issues, for treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse, and for “soft” skills such as how to apply for a job and maintain a personal budget.

The soup kitchen, known as Father’s Table, serves three meals a day, or 140,000 to 150,000 a year.

The kitchen recently exceeded a goal is set in 2004, when it launched a campaign to serve over one million meals, although this year it shifted the time for breakfast and changed that meal to a continental breakfast from a full breakfast in an effort to trim expenses because of the troubled economy.

In 2010, Open Door Ministries provided about $120,000 in emergency financial assistance to about 1,800 households.

The agency’s permanent supportive-housing program, known as Housing First, is designed to work with chronically-homeless people continuously for a year, or four times in three years.

The program currently houses 26 people in apartments, scattered throughout the city and funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that pay the rent and part of the utility bill.

After finding a stable place to live for the client tenants, formerly homeless people with mental-health or substance-abuse problems, or physical disabilities, or some combination of those problems, the program provides support services to help them become more independent in their living skills.

“It is difficult for them to provide for themselves and be self-sufficient, or to be engaged in supportive services,” says Steve Key, executive director of Open Door Ministries.

The agency’s housing stabilization program, funded over three years with a $900,000 state grant, provides financial assistance for people who have lost their jobs and are on the verge of becoming homeless.

That program, which was launched in 2009 and has helped about 45 households, also provides rent assistance and startup costs for “rapid rehousing” for people who are already homeless and could get into their own housing but lack the financial means.

And its new day center, expected to be launched this summer, aims to offer clients a job-skills program in partnership with the High Point campus of Guilford Technical Community College.

As part of that program, Open Door Ministries also is talking with employers about what they are looking for in employees and what they expect their employees to do.

“We want to get people ready for jobs,” Key says, “and understand what employers are looking for and how we can help the employers.”

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