A month after putting out an S.O.S. for funds and volunteers, Linda Heitman, executive director of Brown County Home Solutions, has found that churches, groups and individuals in the community have responded.
The community’s generosity with finances and labor means Brown County Home Solutions (BCHS) has a much better chance of getting an inclement weather shelter for the homeless opened in December.
But there is still much renovation to be accomplished before BCHS — a nonprofit organization that is addressing homelessness in Brown County — can open the second floor at the former Avenue D Baptist Church in Brownwood as a shelter.
The shelter will have a capacity of 16. Men will be welcome as long as they are part of a family unit. Single men will be sent to New Beginnings church.
Heitman has asked area churches to consider having church workdays, and five have committed.
“We’re making great progress,” Heitman said. “I get those five churches … we can get this stuff knocked out. I know we can. And we can open.
Work continues on another component of BCHS — Legacy Village, a community of “tiny homes” adjacent to the former church building. Four have been completed and are occupied and a fifth is under construction. A total of 16 are planned on the property, which was donated to BCHS by the church before it disbanded.
In late October, Heitman was concerned about the where BCHS would get the money to pay for a the $7,900 it will cost to have a fire alarm system installed in the former church building.
The city fire marshal’s office is requiring wired smoke detectors throughout the building ahead of the second-floor shelter conversion, Heitman said then.
The fire marshal’s office is requiring that the system be installed by a fire safety company, and BCHS received a bid from Inca-Trio Fire Services of Abilene for $9,000. The company agreed to donate $1,100 toward the cost, reducing BCHS’s total to $7,900, Heitman said.
Additionally, BCHS is being required to have emergency lighting and lighted exit signs installed in the building, to replace a second-floor double window with a single window and to install a metal landing and stairs outside the window.
Inca will install the fire alarm system in early December and has agreed to wait until January to be paid, Heitman said. A local company is preparing to install the outside metal landing and stairs.
“Absolutely I was very concerned,” Heitman said, referring to the need for finances a month ago. “How am I going to pay for this? God has been faithful and he’s brought in people and he is bringing in the money, and it’s going to happen.”
In addition to donations from the community, BCHS has received a $3,000 grant from the Texas Baptist Organization which is restricted to paying for food, laundry and utilities, Heitman said.
In January, BCHS will receive $7,500 from Brown County. The county’s budget for the 2019-’20 fiscal year includes $10,000 for BCHS, and $2,500 of that has already been dispersed.
In the meantime, “a tremendous amount of work is happening,” Heitman said. New gas lines are being installed, the electric panel has been upgraded and plumbing for an upstairs laundry room has been installed.
Heitman said although BCHS is in “a lot better shape,” donations are still needed.
“We always need donations," Heitman said. “It takes money to run it. God is good. He is providing what we need and I am thrilled to watch it happen.”