05/14/04 — Wayside looks for ways to stay open

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Wayside looks for ways to stay open

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 14, 2004 2:04 PM

For 25 years the Wayside Fellowship Home half-way house has provided a safe haven for hundreds of women, but now it desperately needs money.

Ada Melvin, chairman of the Wayside Fellowship Home board, said that Wayside had suffered some setbacks, but was still helping women recover from alcoholism and addiction.

"In the midst of all our struggles, this board has remained committed," Ms. Melvin said Wednesday during a special board meeting.

Ms. Melvin, who became chairman of the board last year, said she soon realized that something had to be done to keep the home operating.

"This is valuable, and we can't see it close," she said.

Wayside helps women who demonstrate a sincere desire to stay sober and start a new life. Admission to Wayside begins with a referral to Eastpointe, the regional mental health center.

Women can live at Wayside for up to a year. During this time, residents have the opportunity to become employed, find housing and improve their self-esteem through recovery. All residents are expected to work and pay weekly rent.

Wayside House Manager Ida Carr agreed with Ms. Melvin about the necessity of the home.

Ms. Carr speaks from experience about the usefulness of Wayside, because she struggled with addiction before being helped by Wayside.

"I also went to a treatment center, but I knew that I needed to go to a half-way house," she said. A half-way house helps those coming out of a treatment center ease back into society.

Wayside, she said, gave her living skills and brought her to a closer relationship with God. She was also able to go back and complete school.

Shirley Smith, another former resident, said her life was turned around after coming to Wayside. She now has a job helping others recover from substance abuse.

"For 25 years I used drugs and alcohol," she said. "I had such low self-esteem. But when I came here, I learned how to love myself again. I learned values and how to function in society."

Ms. Smith said the support and love she got from Wayside motivated her to become productive.

"I was once out on the street, giving up on life," she said. "This place saved my life."

Gloria Bennett, another former resident, said that it was harder for a woman to recover than it was for a man.

Ms. Bennett went through the program in 1992 and said she has been sober ever since.

"There are a lot of places for men to go," she said. "But there are not too many places safe for women to go."

Patricia Peykar, a board member who is also the director of women's programs for Eastpointe, concurred that there were few places like Wayside for women in this area.

"This is the only women's program like this up and running in a four-county area," Ms. Peykar said. "It is very important to the community."

Ms. Melvin said she decided to get the word out about Wayside's need, because people in the community were asking whether the home was still operating.

She approached the Rev. William Barber from Rebuilding Broken Places for advice on attracting funding. Ms. Melvin said that Barber agreed to provide technical assistance.

"We're meeting regularly to determine the next step," she said. "So we expect major changes."

One of the first changes, she said, is to expand the board to add more members.

She also wants to add more residents to the home. The home on Walnut Street can house four women, but now there are only two residents.

Barber said the board needed to work on a strategic plan to secure long-term funding.

"If you can get long-term funding, then you can focus on the program," he said.

He also hoped that Wayside could get local governmental support, corporate sponsors or find a way to access federal or state money.

The Rev. Gene Carpenter, board member and pastor at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, said he believed that Wayside could work with other agencies.

Rebuilding Broken Places has been helping Wayside by offering computer and job training for the women, as well as child care.

Board members said they were grateful for the help from various organizations, including United Way and the city of Goldsboro.

"And there are many individual supporters," said Ms. Carr. "I don't know what we would have done without the help we've gotten from the community."

The Rev. John Richardson, a state representative for the Disciples of Christ Church, brought a check from the church to the home for $2,500.

"There is this same need in every community," Richardson said. "I'm concerned about those who have become marginalized in society."

Ms. Melvin said the home didn't have all the answers yet, but it was still surviving.

"We've held on, and I believe in it," she said. "But we need some help."