Home Harrisonburg: Open Doors nonprofit to serve as operator of Homeless Services Center
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Harrisonburg: Open Doors nonprofit to serve as operator of Homeless Services Center

Crystal Graham
homeless services center harrisonburg downtown
Homeless Services Center concept, submitted

The local nonprofit Open Doors will serve as the operator of Harrisonburg’s Homeless Services Center when it opens later this year. Construction is under way at the 1111 N. Main St. location and is expected to be complete by October – in time for the winter season.

The City of Harrisonburg made the selection following a competitive procurement process.

The center will offer an overnight emergency shelter, a cold weather hypothermia program and a drop-in center during the day.

The Homeless Services Center is a key piece of the city’s efforts to address homelessness in Harrisonburg and support agencies working hard to assist unhoused individuals in the area.

“The city believes this project will strengthen our community’s efforts to make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring for people in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County,” said Amy Snider, Harrisonburg deputy city manager. “We are very grateful for all our partners who are moving this project forward and eager to continue working with a great partner like Open Doors to support those in need in The Friendly City.”

Open Doors, which the city has worked closely with for many years on homelessness services, will receive $100,000 of annual funding from the city to support operational expenses as part of their three-year contract.

The city will be directly responsible for the expense of the utilities and the maintenance of the structure, its mechanical systems and its fixtures, such as kitchen and laundry equipment.

An existing building on the 3.68-acre property, formerly the Shenandoah Presbytery, is being preserved and renovated to provide space for administrative offices and a medical wing with exam space and five temporary medical beds for individuals with symptoms of acute illness or awaiting medical transport.

The shelter and drop-in center will operate out of a connected addition to the existing building which is currently being constructed.

The shelter, which will be open every day from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., will contain space for up to72 congregant beds and 4 universal rooms, with other support facilities such as showers and a laundry room.

Open Doors expects to operate the drop-in center Monday through Friday, except for major holidays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Open Doors will partner with other local agencies including Sentara RMH, the Suitcase Clinic for the Homeless, Strength in Peers, Mercy House, First Step and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board to provide on-site services.

“We are excited to lead and to work collectively with our community on this tremendous opportunity to improve the lives of others,” said Open Doors Executive Director Nate Riddle. “Open Doors is thankful for the city and community’s trust, and we look forward to what can be achieved through this campus as it serves as a beacon of hope and first point of entry.”

The Homeless Services Project is supported in part by $5 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, approved by Harrisonburg City Council in November 2021.

Harrisonburg City Council members had previously identified the need for a permanent, low-barrier shelter in its Harrisonburg 2039 Vision Plan.

“I am very proud of all the work that has gone into making this effort a reality, and I am excited to have Open Doors as our committed ally as we move closer to opening this new center,” said Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed. “In my time as mayor, as I have met with service providers in Harrisonburg and spoken with individuals experiencing homelessness in our community, I have seen that there is more we can do as leaders to support those in need. Our city vision calls for us to ensure that all in Harrisonburg feel safe, valued and have abundant opportunity to improve their lives. I believe this project is a huge step in the right direction to accomplishing those goals.”

More information about the project is available at https://harrisonburgva.gov/homeless-services-center.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.