ASHEBORO — Homeless women and families in Randolph County now have a place to go — Lydia’s Place.
The official mission of Lydia’s Place “is to disrupt the cycle of homelessness for women and families and promote sustained independence for those seeking secure housing.”
Lydia’s Place is named for the Lydia in Acts 16 who showed “radical hospitality” to Paul and Silas.
The former Calvary United Methodist Church at 114 Francis St. in Asheboro, is being renovated to house as many as 54 persons. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Oct. 24 at the fellowship hall, which represents Phase I of the ongoing project.
The Rev. Alexis Coleman, executive director, addressed a host of supporters to the event. “In a week or so we’ll welcome the first family,” she said. “Thank you for your support.”
Brooke Schmidly, chair of the Lydia’s Place board of directors, added to Coleman’s comments. “We’re going to welcome the first 12 people to a temporary home, trying to help them” become independent, she said.
Work on Phases II and III, taking place in the main church building, is expected to be completed by next summer, providing space for an additional 32 or more beds, Schmidly said.
Schmidly said in a Lydia’s Place brochure that she became aware of the problem of homeless families when she was a “Big Sister” of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. The little girl she was mentoring “had many hardships suffering in poverty and many other challenges. As she became a young adult, things got worse.”
Schmidly wrote that she received a phone call from the now-adult “little sister” who was being evicted from her home, along with a 3-week-old baby and a 2-year-old child. Schmidly said she and her husband found temporary shelter for the woman at a hotel until she could move in with family.
“But, it got me asking,” Schmidly wrote, “What about the others?”
Many in the community, apparently, were asking the same question.
For the past two years, efforts by individuals, businesses, churches, state and local government officials, and granting organizations have brought to pass the dream of Lydia’s Place Ministries.
“Our board is overwhelmed by government officials, business and church leaders, and a state grant appropriation,” Schmidly said to those present for the ribbon-cutting.
She also thanked the Randolph County Board of Commissioners' support of the capital campaign and a “very large grant” from the Edward M. Armfield Foundation.
Other support has been pledged by the faith community, which is “enthusiastically supporting us, including three meals a day. We’re absolutely overwhelmed with the outpouring of support of those with expertise and resources. And we’re excited for the families who will be there. I ask for your continued support.”
The Rev. Lynda Ferguson, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Asheboro, provided the blessing of the building, pledging to God, “We consecrate this building to you.”
Jaylin Brower, a Lydia’s Place board member, said there are more than 100 requests for placement in the facility. Most have heard of Lydia’s Place by word of mouth, he said.
Brower said only people in Randolph County will be considered and each request will be vetted and assisted. “No one will be unseen or unheard,” he said. “We will partner with every resource in the county. Some might need other services,” including the Randolph County Department of Social Services, Randolph Community College, Randolph Health, MERCE Clinic, the Randolph County Partnership for Children, or mental health and addiction care.
“There’s no time limit” for remaining at the facility, Brower said. “We’ll be trying to reintegrate them into society as fast as possible.”
Lydia’s Place will take women, children and families, but no single men will be allowed. Asheboro already has the Shelter of Hope for men.
NC Sen. Dave Craven “advocated at the state level for financial support,” Brower said.
The estimated cost of renovation, which will occur in three phases, is $1.7 million. Naming opportunities for donations begin at $10,000 for furnishings of apartments. The graduated scale tops out at $150,000 for naming of the fellowship hall multipurpose room. Donors of $1,000 or more will be listed on a contribution board. But all amounts are welcomed.
Donations of practical items are also being requested, such as hygiene products, laundry and cleaning supplies, paper products, diapers and wipes, and new and used towels.
For any type of donation or to volunteer to help, contact Coleman at 336-628-0659 or email@example.com.
The facility will include a commercial-grade kitchen, laundry, showers, a common bathroom and bedrooms with bunks and storage bins.
The multipurpose room will have tables, chairs, TV, computers and a video screen showing various angles around the buildings by security cameras.
Assistance for developing Lydia’s Place came from the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, which helped First UMC purchase the property and start the organization, Brower said.
The Rev. Amy Burton of Wesley Community Development Corporation (CDC) of Huntersville said that her organization helped with developing the property. Wesley CDC is a nonprofit real estate firm that helps religious institutions develop and repurpose their property assets.
Burton said Chad Brannon, director of construction and development, oversaw construction by S.E. Trogdon & Sons. They will continue with the next phases of construction.
“We’re excited for the community that this is here now,” Burton said. “Calvary closed a few years ago and the vision was there for it to become a women’s and children’s shelter.”
Why a shelter? Why now?
Asheboro has had a shelter on Wainmain Avenue for several years. But Shelter of Hope is for men only.
Meanwhile, the need to shelter homeless women and children has been growing for years and there has been no facility for them. According to a brochure provided by Lydia’s Place, agencies such as Christians United Outreach Center and the Family Crisis Center have been reporting steady increases in calls asking for shelter.
The Randolph County School System and Asheboro City Schools together reported more than 300 unhoused students during the 2018-19 school year. Homeless children, according to the Institute for Children and Poverty, are nine times more likely than their housed peers to repeat a grade, four times more likely to drop out of school and three times more likely to be placed in special education programs. Providing a shelter for homeless children makes a big difference in their lives, including their educational success.
One of the leading community issues cited in the Randolph County 2019 Community Health Assessment was homelessness. A 2020 survey of residents within a two-mile radius of downtown Asheboro found that 85 percent of responses believed that homelessness is either a major or moderate problem, while 73 percent said that affordable housing is either a major or moderate problem.
Without a home of their own, many women and children are forced to sleep in their cars or outdoors. Some rely on churches or nonprofits to provide hotel rooms. Others couch-surf or double up with friends and family.
The brochure concludes, “Lydia’s Place will provide safe and secure alternative housing for the most vulnerable women and families in our community.”