The Salvation Army of Cape Fear has been helping people in need with a place to sleep, food and resources to get back on their feet since it opened its shelter, kitchen and office at 820 N. Second St. in Wilmington.
Hurricane Florence, however, destroyed the downtown location, causing the ceiling to collapse and water to pour into the building.
“The roof peeled off the building….it literally came off the building, which then exposed all of the vents all the HVAC ducts, so you literally had rainwater off the roof into the building,” said Major Mark Craddock, the Corps officer for Salvation Army of Cape Fear.
This meant that the 35 people that were sheltered there during Hurricane Florence had to move to an adjacent building until the storm passed and they could be safely moved to a New Hanover County shelter.
The Salvation Army is currently not able to shelter residents. It has moved its social services operations to its church building at 223 S. Third St.
This is not good news for the center, whose shelter and kitchen have been at capacity for the past several years, said Greg Thompson, chairman of the center’s Build Hope campaign committee.
“There's rarely a night that goes by, a day that goes by that we're not really at capacity,” Thompson said. “We've done studies that indicate that there's a tremendous need [for shelters] in the community that is unmet despite all the terrific agencies and nonprofits that we have that are trying to help people who need food or need a place to sleep.”
Many people were displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, with many seeking shelters in hotels
and help from with housing from nonprofits like the Salvation Army.
With the Salvation Army currently not able to shelter anyone, Hurricane Florence added more pressure for them to find a temporary space and get more funding for its Build Hope campaign, said Thompson.
In September, the nonprofit organization submitted plans to the city of Wilmington for its Corps Community Center and Center of Hope, which would be located at 1220 N. 30th St., near the Creekwood neighborhood.
The center would be about 43,000 square feet. It would include a building for the corps community center and a shelter, along with a Salvation Army store, a soccer field and a softball field.
The Build Hope campaign aims to raise $12 million for this new center. It has already raised $6 million in funds, said Thompson.
Efforts to start construction at the new center is dependent on getting the rest of the money in, he said. Officials anticipate starting construction in early to mid-2019, with construction estimated to be complete in 18 months.
Plans for the new center started before Hurricane Florence destroyed its center because the center was not meeting the needs of the community and the Salvation Army, said Craddock.
“We had a great building, that was perfectly designed for the thoughts and philosophies and techniques of the 1980s, but not for the 21st century,” Craddock said. “One of the issues that we want to address in our new facility is the ability and the capacity of keeping families together and helping them move through the process together as opposed to having to put men in one dorm and ladies in another dorm.”
Until the new center is built, the Salvation Army is planning on finding temporary locations to keep servicing the community.
“Our advisory board is working on what our options are to kind of reopen on a temporary basis, what that would look like," Craddock said.
The nonprofit is currently using the vacant Harris Teeter grocery store location at Ogden Plaza, which is used to process donations and distribute items.
“That partnership, which is a great partnership between the nonprofit and the profit world, has empowered the salvation army now to be able to focus on moving from the recovery,” Craddock said.
The Salvation Army not only focuses on giving people food and a place to stay, but it also focuses on providing resources for people that will help them long-term; therefore, it is an important asset to the community, said Craddock.
“The whole purpose of our shelter was to bring people from their crisis points into stability through our life skills program, which taught them basically how to be stable and contributing into our community as well,” he said.
Salvation Army of Cape Fear officials hope to get the funding necessary to continue its efforts and provide a shelter during a time when there is a need for more available shelters in the community.
“The need has really never been more urgent, and Florence has just accelerated the plans that we had in place to begin with,” Thompson said. “We just think that it's a really critical time for us to do what we need to do, to help the community heal and the people who are most in need are those who we are trying to serve.”