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One shelter, hundreds helped

By Kate Murphy

Allied Churches of Alamance County is an organization in Burlington, North Carolina whose goal is to feed the hungry and house the homeless. It is the largest food pantry and only homeless shelter in Alamance County.

“Our homeless population is the most visible, invisible population,” said Kim Crawford, Executive Director of Allied Churches, “People see it everyday and walk past it everyday.”

The United States Census Bureau published that the per capita income in Burlington is $23,405, which is below both North Carolina and US data ($25,285 and $28,051 respectively). Also the percentage of Burlington residents who live in poverty is 21.9 percent.

“Our community can drive by and come in and with pride say this is how we treat or value our most vulnerable neighbors,” Crawford said.

From July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 Allied Churches Emergency Shelter housed 638 individuals. Hey provided over night shelter to 349 single males, 196 single females, and 32 families, including 61 children. The shelter has 94 beds and on average houses 65 to 70 people per night. They also currently host about 10 kids.


“This is housing,” Crawford said,” this isn’t a home although 60 to 70 people call this place a home right now. We are temporary.”

According to Crawford the average age of homelessness in Alamance County is nine years old with the fastest population being women with children, many who are fleeing domestic abuse and violence.

“The most important thing that we do here is relationship,” Crawford said. “It shows up in tangible things, a bed, food, in those concrete things, but it is about getting to know people.”

Their efforts are based getting people back on their feet and they never do for them what they can do for themselves. The goal is to move people in and out of the shelter as fast as possible because they don’t want to become permanent housing. They connect individuals to other services, employment, mental health, and educational opportunities to help them become independent and self-sufficient.

“We know who to connect you too,” Crawford said. “We can introduce you to the right people. It’s networking at its finest and the most basic level.”

About 25 percent of the people at Allied Churches are working. Others are looking for jobs or an affordable apartment, which are hard to come by in Alamance County. Many of these people manage to get a job in the service industry at minimum wage also generally ends up being part-time which means they cannot afford a place to live.

“You’ve got to be working 40 hours plus in order to afford almost anything in Alamance County,” Crawford said. “There’s enough housing, but not enough affordable housing.”

According to report released by the Alamance County Planning Department $13.50 is the hourly wage necessary to afford a two-bedroom fair market rent apartment.

“And 7.25 is along way from that,” Crawford said.

One woman who lives at the shelter was fortunate enough to find a minimum wage job at McDonald’s to support her and her infant. The McDonald’s is six miles from Allied Churches and without public transportation she has to walk to work. To make it to her 7 a.m. shift on time she leaves the shelter at 5 a.m. every morning.

“That’s the life of people here,” Crawford said.

“They’re not lazy, they’re not stupid, they didn’t do this themselves,” Crawford said. “They’re not all drug addicts and alcoholics, they are caring, sensitive people just like you and me.”

Allied Churches is an organization that takes in people who come from different opportunity and backgrounds, sees the potential they have and helps them deal with what life has handed them. They connect with poverty-stricken individuals who have been told they are worthless and offer them resources to be successful.

“There’s nothing better than having a former resident come back and tell you how different their life is,” Crawford said. “They come back with a smile and they laugh. There’s nothing better than that.”