To the editor:
The Way Station board of directors wants to clarify what the Way Station is, and is not. We also affirm that we appreciate input, including recent conversations with our neighbors.
The Way Station serves as a day resource center for three populations: teens, families with children and adults. We’re the first facility in Carroll County to directly address the gap in services for residents of the Mount Washington Valley who are experiencing homelessness, housing-insecurity, as well as those who have stable housing but are one paycheck away from losing their homes. Often this means our guests live in campgrounds, cars, hotels or they double up in apartments or couch-surf. We aren’t a shelter and don’t offer overnight accommodations or serve meals.
The Way Station offers showers, laundry, toiletries, camping supplies, internet access, emergency non-perishable food supplies, post office box to receive mail, and referrals to other care-providing agencies, plus socio-emotional support for our guests. Since transportation can be a barrier, we can cover rides to the Way Station via taxi vouchers.
At this time, we are usually open 12-15 hours per week, with two volunteers on-site. The Vaughan Center serves as our fiscal agent and provides the 501(c)(3) under which we function, although we operate autonomously with our own board of directors.
The Way Station is hosted on Nativity Lutheran’s campus; it is supported by several non-profit organizations and faith communities. Everyone involved with the Way Station is a volunteer, and we depend solely on donations.
Since we opened a few weeks ago, we have served over a dozen people, including families with minor children and individual adults. Our guests came through referrals from other agencies. None were walk-ins, though this may change. Our navigators (volunteers with training and professional expertise in support for vulnerable or at-risk populations) help guests connect with a network of agencies and non-profits.
Rural homelessness and housing-insecurity is not well-documented or easily defined. Local, state and federal agencies don’t have accurate statistics to measure or describe our guests’ needs in this region; we are helping Tri-County Cap gather basic information and statistics.
Since this is a new facility, supporting a population whose needs haven’t previously been profiled, the Way Station operates with an adaptive, open-ended approach. We are learning — from our guests — about their needs as they ask for support. We can adjust resources and strategies to best serve people’s needs as we get to know them.
Our goal is to provide a safe and welcoming place for our guests, as well as to care for the well-being of volunteers and our neighbors. As a work-in-progress, the Way Station’s board of directors realizes that ongoing check-ins with local stakeholders — neighbors, volunteers, donors, referring agencies, local authorities and guests — helps us to improve our presence in the valley.
Rev. Gail Doktor
Way Station board member