Onslow Community Outreach celebrates opening of new homeless shelter

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Trevor Dunnell

The Daily News

After five years of hard work and progress, the winds from what was left of Hurricane Zeta threatened to ruin the unavailing of the new Onslow Community Outreach Shelter and Housing Support Center.

Although it tried its hardest, officials were able to push through the winds with smiles on their faces. Nothing was going to stop them this day. 

Once he thanked all of those involved with the OCO over the last 30 years, outreach Board Member Michael Elder thanked the citizens of Onslow for their unwavering support to the ministry and their mission. 

"Because of you, critical needs have been met and this ever-increasing need continues to be faced. We are stronger together, better together and today, we get to celebrate together."

The new shelter is over twice the size of the old one sitting at 4,740 square feet however, it is not currently operational due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, the outreach has addressed homeless needs by using hotels for the time being. Interim Director Rosh Foskey noted their goal was to house the first group of people sometime in November. 

Foskey took over for long time Executive Director Theo McClammy during the summer but has been with the outreach as the clinical director for several years. Finally seeing all of the hard work come to fruition he says is a testament to the hard work of many individuals. 

"It has shown tremendous growth and this state of the art facility is a good quality place. The main thing is this can be a place for someone who can get the help they need in more ways than one. Counseling on finances, helping with a job search and if used properly, can get a person back on their feet," Foskey said. 

Homelessness holds a special place in his heart when he drives around and sees someone in need of help. Foskey thinks about what a person has gone through to end up that way but recognizes it is a fine line for everyone. No one is immune to that slippery slope. 

Several new amenities and programs are being added to the 50 bed shelter such as all new dining/commons area and conference rooms for client services. What employees are most excited about is the Street Outreach and Rapid Rehousing Programs. 

Clients who are referred to the outreach through other partnering agencies will receive a housing first approach in order to bridge the gap of why that person has become homeless and address it immediately. Street Outreach is for to assist a person with basic survival needs if there is not an immediate vacancy at the shelter. 

There are still many things the shelter needs to make it whole. Everything from bed frames, mattresses, to baby changing tables and pack-n-plays for toddlers. Anyone can apply to sponsor a room or some of the items by contacting the outreach. 

Officials spoke of a phase two plan for growth at the new shelter. Eventually, the soup kitchen and administrative offices at the 600 Court Street location will transfer over to Hargett Street as one lone entity. Those plans are still months away from completion, but the outreach is already planning the shelter to hold their annual Christmas Cheer in December. 

Chairman Don Herring added the process was utilized extremely well, as the plan was to make sure every dollar they had was well spent. 

"The goal was to work very smart with every dollar we had and we wanted the people to have the best. If you look in our restrooms, we had companies come from Raleigh to lay tile and this is legacy work that we wanted to be here for the people using it."

In 2019, the outreach housed 290 homeless people, including families and veterans, while providing 7,500 nights of shelter accommodations. Foskey believes having those extra beds and amenities will more than address the growing homeless issue in Onslow County.  

"We are constantly thinking of ways to support people and for those who are ready, we are set up for them and ready to get them back on their feet," Foskey added. 

Reporter Trevor Dunnell can be reached by email at tdunnell@jdnews.com