Renovations will soon be complete on the farmhouse the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs acquired in 2019 to house its emergency family shelter program.
The coalition aims to finish construction on the building — located at 7516 Hayward Road — next month and start welcoming families to the shelter in early March, according to a news release from the organization, which supports local residents who are experiencing homelessness.
When it opens, the 8,300-square-foot space will be able to house up to 10 families, or 50 people in total — a sizable increase from the program’s current capacity of 14 people, said Neil Donnelly, the emergency family shelter’s director.
“We are excited,” Donnelly said, adding that the organization could not have tackled the project without the community’s support. He brags to his friends “all over the planet” about how generous residents of Frederick County are.
The coalition is currently on the “punch-list stage” of the renovations, Donnelly said. Though a supply chain issue has kept the final part needed for the shelter’s fire suppression system on back-order, he said construction on the building is “99.9 percent” done.
The new facility includes family suites with personal bathrooms, laundry rooms, counseling rooms, a community kitchen and living area and a children’s playroom. Unlike the coalition’s Alan P. Linton, Jr. Emergency Shelter — which serves adults and is open from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day — the emergency family shelter will be open 24/7.
In the Religious Coalition’s 40-year history, this is the biggest project it has ever taken on, said Nick Brown, the organization’s executive director. There were a lot of “unknowns” in the early stages, Brown said, but the organization was soothed by the support it received from the community. The coalition announced last week it had surpassed its fundraising goal of $3.5 million for the shelter with the contributions of gifts, pledges and government funding.
“We want to convey a huge, huge thank you to the community,” Brown said. He specifically expressed his appreciation for the county and city government and local congregations and businesses, as well as long-time donors to the coalition.
Since the coalition began its family shelter program in 2014, the goal has always been to find it a permanent location, Brown said. The organization started scoping out the Hayward Road farmhouse in 2017, the same year Brown became the coalition’s executive director, and it settled with the city of Frederick to purchase the property for $1 two years later.
The shelter currently runs on a “scattered-site model,” with local congregations hosting families each night on a rotating basis. There are about 14 houses of worship in the program’s rotation right now, Donnelly said, with even more providing support to its clients.
When the facility opens, Donnelly said the families the program serves will gain a new sense of stability. Those who use the shelter have often experienced a good amount of trauma in their lives, and Donnelly said knowing they'll be able to stay in a fixed location will mean a lot to them. The program also plans to use the facility to expand its offering of services, including family therapy and life skills classes.
Again, he stressed the coalition's gratitude to the Frederick County community.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you," he said.