SENECA — Eight churches in Oconee County have banded together to build the first-ever homeless shelter in the area, addressing a need that stays hidden from the outside.
Known as The Golden Corner, Oconee County runs along the Georgia border up into the North Carolina mountains. It is the home of the famously clear Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee, where fabulous vistas attract retirees from South Carolina and the northeast. The county is the home of the huge Sumter National Forest and no less than 11 other state and county parks and wilderness areas. It is not the sort of place where homelessness seems problematic.
“There are a lot of very poor people in Oconee County,” said Mary C. Moosbrugger, a member of St. Paul Church in Seneca and a chief organizer of the ecumenical effort to build a shelter. “It takes a job paying $11 an hour for 40 hours a week to be able to afford rent. We estimate that there are between 25 and 40 homeless people here at any given time.”
Moosbrugger knows the poor and the homeless in her hometown. She is a volunteer at and a former long-time board member of Our Daily Bread, a Seneca soup kitchen that feeds between 70 and 90 people a day. The homeless shelter that the pastors and other spiritual leaders of Oconee hope to provide will accommodate that many in two large rooms with cots.
“It will not be fancy, but we hope it will serve as a place of social ministry during the day. We’re thinking about child care, mentoring programs, referrals to other agencies and other assistance like job help and such,” said Moosbrugger, the owner of a marketing research consulting firm.
She and other organizers of the homeless shelter project spoke during weekend liturgies at area churches on Jan 8-9, hoping to raise seed money to get started. They need $30,000 to buy a piece of commercial land that they have already found, and then about $300,000 to construct the actual building. At Our Daily Bread, where her husband, John, is the treasurer, the opening expenses were paid off in one year.
“I know God will provide, and that all it takes to make a thing like this happen is for people to share a vision,” Moosbrugger said.
She is optimistic, she said, that Our Daily Rest Homeless Shelter will become a reality, and cited three main reasons for her optimism: the need is there; the people of the county have proven to be generous in the past; and the area has “a rich resource of retirees from the north who have been blessed in their lives and want to give back.”
The shelter will need volunteers as well as seed money and will be conceptually based on the success of Chicago-area shelters that began in church basements or school gymnasiums. Like Our Daily Bread, which will provide food for the shelter, Our Daily Rest will be entirely volunteer-run.
Mary Moosbrugger can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (864) 944-8965.