In 2002-2003, Ruth Woodend began studying spiritual formation with the Servant Leadership School in Charlotte, NC. The course was formulated by The Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. During this nine month course of study, students look within to find and identify their spirituality and then look outside of themselves to determine how this spirituality can be used to help others. In May, 2003 the question was asked of the group, “if money were no object what would you do?” Without thought Ruth Replied, “I would find a four bedroom house and take in the homeless who need a place to recover from a hospital stay.” Freda Schlaman, who had taken the course in 2001-2002 was present at this meeting. Freda and Ruth met the next week at Urban Ministry Center and Freda said she too had a great concern for those experiencing homelessness who had been in the hospital. They began meeting in June 2003.
They met every week, sometimes twice a week to pray and to talk about how this mission could become real. In August, 2003 the two women went by train to Washington, D.C. to visit The Church of the Savior. This church is made up of a number of missions, all of which were started by people who saw a need and acted to address the need. Ruth and Freda were encouraged by the church members and were given lots of good advice and prayer. They then determined that God was calling them to begin a mission in Charlotte.
The first step was to invite people who might be interested to a “Come and See” soup supper at Ruth’s home. E-mails went to all who had been a part of Servant Leadership and to volunteers from the Urban Ministry Center where both Ruth and Freda were counselors. Twelve people came to the first meeting. From that group a mission team was formed of eight people. The mission team met regularly to pray, eat soup and determine a course of action.
Ruth and Freda gave the mission its name, Samaritan House and then proceeded to incorporate. This was done over the internet with the two women sharing the $200 in fees. Next, Samaritan House had to become 501(c)3 eligible. Since the incorporation went well they decided they could also do this on the internet. This was a very slow process, however, after a few months and many phone calls to the IRS, Samaritan House became an official 501(c)3 charity.
Mac McGee, a member of the mission team, began the process of working with the city to determine how Samaritan House would be zoned. It was soon discovered that the mission did not fit into any of the current zoning areas. Mac, Ruth and Freda met with planning and zoning staff to write a text amendment. When that was completed the amendment went to Planning and Commission and then to the City Council for approval. Freda and Ruth had been told this project would take eighteen months. Luckily, it was completed in just eight.
While all of this activity was going on, the mission team formed a Board of Directors who met for the first time on January 14, 2004 and wrote the bi-laws. To raise money, each board member turned in a list of possible donors. Letters were sent and contributions began to arrive. Ruth and Freda were busy speaking at church groups, Rotary meetings and women’s groups in Mecklenburg County.
Through a lot of effort, enough money was raised and it was time to find a facility. Jane Burts, Board President was at a meeting where she heard of a house that the YWCA owned that was empty. Jane and Ruth went to see the house that afternoon and realized even though the house was is disrepair, that it would be a perfect "Samaritan House".
While Tyler 2 Construction was working at the YWCA two of the managers came to the house to see what we were doing. After hearing about the mission they immediately said they could do the renovations. The Charlotte Dilworth South End Rotary Club decided they would furnish the house as well as paint the bedrooms and clean. These two miracles allowed Samaritan House to open on March 1, 2005. Many groups and individuals brought all that was needed; bedding, dishes, towels, pots and pans, a microwave, a new dishwasher, a washing machine and dryer, and a refrigerator – everything that was necessary to care for our guests.
After 6 years, Samaritan House was recognized by the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council as a unique respite care program. In June 2011, we moved into our current facility at 611 Fortune St. Our original location on Park Rd. was rented, our current facility we own. Our current facility allows us to care for 12 guests including those using crutches and wheelchairs because it is located on one floor compared to our old facility that only let us serve 8 guests with all of the bedrooms on the second floor prohibiting us from helping those using crutches and wheelchairs. This has remained a major step in our evolution and could not have been done without the generous support of our community.
Samaritan House is 100% non-profit and we DO NOT receive any local, state or federal funding. All of our donors are from the private and corporate sectors. In providing our program to those in need, we have designed it and continually operate it based on a “home like” setting. We are not a shelter in any way and do not operate it as one. We want each guest to feel at home as well as feel safe and comfortable in order to minimize the stresses of recuperation.
Samaritan House was designed and has been operated with the mindset that if we can provide this population with a proper place to recuperate, then there would be a less chance that they would get worse and costing the county taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
Since opening its doors, Samaritan House has saved the taxpayers in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
While at Samaritan House, each guest is able to recuperate, but we also provide several resources to them in order for them to receive an income through SSI, Disability, Food Stamps, etc. as well as housing resources. We provide them transportation to and from all doctors’ appointments and prescription pick-up. We are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In late 2015 Samaritan House started working closely with Levine Cancer Institute and their patients. While these patients are undergoing treatments (some that can last as long 19 weeks) Samaritan House provides them with a safe, clean place to recuperate without worry of being on the streets or in local shelters. This partnership has grown since then and continues to be a success for everyone involved.
Our program includes 3 meals a day; each room has 3 single beds and a private full bathroom. Guests have access to free local / long distance phone service, internet access and laundry services. We have two television rooms to enjoy movies and shows, a library of books as well as DVD’s and a large backyard area for walking around. We also have a list of churches and volunteer groups that come in on a weekly basis to provide meals and fellowship with our guests. Thanks to our many donors and church groups that help support Samaritan House, we can also provide toiletries (soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, etc) as well as clothing to make sure that each guest is taken care of.
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Samaritan House is in danger of closing permanently. Through our Save our Home campaign, we are asking the community for urgent support.