A different kind of homeless shelter - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

A different kind of homeless shelter

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Story by Antwan Harris
Eyewitness News Reporter

MURPHY, NORTH CAROLINA. (WRCB)-- A homeless shelter in Murphy, North Carolina is making an impact on the people it serves.

It's located right across the Tennessee state line on Blumenthal Street.

The people there not only call it their home, but learn work and life skills.

The facility strives to end chronic homelessness.

It's a one of a kind shelter for the area and the director says they help everyone from young kids to the elderly.

Eyewitness New was told the homeless population has grown in the area, so the demand has become overwhelming.

James Reynolds' story was one he couldn't fathom five years ago.

Last year he had a good job in Pensacola, Florida as a maintenance supervisor.

But then things took a turn for the worse.

"I lost my family, my job and I found myself homeless," says Reynolds.

After a stint with drugs and alcohol, he found himself without a place to turn, and headed toward a dead end.

With nowhere to turn, a friend recommended him to the Hulburt-Johnson Friendship Home in Murphy, North Carolina.

Unlike traditional homeless shelters that are first come, first serve, this one takes people in for up to 90 days.

It has rooms for families, singles, and those with medical problems.

Executive Director Deni Graves says there isn't a shelter like it within 100 miles, and funding hasn't been an easy task.

"Funding has been cut and continues to be cut. Funding has been a major problem," says Graves.

It's so bad, Graves laid off the full-time staff and signed up a volunteer-only workforce.

The shelter has grown from a just a few residents six years ago, to more than 20 per day, which brought about the most recent hurdle of feeding everyone.

The kitchen is under construction for professional appliances, but the downside is there's nowhere to cook.

Graves says she put the word out to the community for cooked meals and something miraculous happened.

"Every meal was covered and we have about a month's worth of people on the waiting list," says Graves. "The community support has been tremendous."

As for Reynolds, he says his life transformation is back on schedule.

"I'm back on my feet, I am about to get my own place soon," says Reynolds.

Reynolds says his story is no different than anyone else going through recovery.

He says his will to recover is what drives him to make his life better.

"When you need help, there is help out there," says Reynolds. "If you need help, you can get help."

Those who stay at the shelter volunteer throughout the day.

They apply for jobs or volunteer and stay until they can transition into permanent housing.

They hope to have the kitchen working by the summer.

The shelter operates on donations.

For ways you can help, call 1-828-837-2654.

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