SALISBURY — Community leaders in Salisbury are calling a new homeless shelter a miracle.
Rowan Helping Ministries broke ground Wednesday for a new facility that will provide a bigger shelter and soup kitchen. While officials said they feel fortunate the project is finally coming to fruition, it is arising out of a growing poverty rate in Rowan County.
"Welcome to the celebration of the expansion of our abilities to serve our neighbors in need," said Rowan Helping Ministries Executive Director Kyna Foster.
The new energy efficient facility will more than double the number of beds, as well as expand dining and educational space. Foster said the new shelter can not come soon enough.
"We're finding lots of folks who are coming to us for the first time," said Foster.
There are people like Bobby Walker who have been staying at the shelter for two months.
"I lost my job, and the next thing I know I'm losing my home and ne thing led to another, now I'm homeless," said Walker.
Across the street, its current space was built to house 40 men more than 20 years ago.
"Last night we had 68 men women and children staying in the shelter. We're converting our lobby and our office space and our dining room into shelter space every evening and changing it back to its intended purpose every morning," said Foster.
And space is only getting tighter. Foster said the poverty rate remains above 20 percent in Rowan County.
Mayor Paul Woodson says during his near 15 years on city council, soup kitchen lines have only grown longer.
"Especially lunch, sometimes they're a block long, where maybe five years ago there were 50 people, maybe there's 200 people now," said Woodson.
Despite the growing need, many here are calling the new shelter the miracle on Long Street. $6 million in private donations was raised to fund it.
"It is the community coming together. And this miracle on Long Street is the community coming together," said Foster.
Construction is set to begin later this fall. The project is expected to be complete in early 2014.