Did you know that the closest intact family shelter is in downtown Houston? That means that in the Baytown, Highlands and Chambers County areas if you and your family are homeless you cannot find a shelter closer than downtown Houston to host your family without being split by gender. Imagine a homeless single mom with two children; a daughter age 8 and a son age 12, this family when arriving at Bay Area Homeless Services is split up by gender. Mom and sister go to the female dormitory and the son gets sent to the male dormitory. Age twelve is the separation point at BAHS. Husbands and wives are unable to live in the same facility and must be split too.
“Since January of 2014 more than 100 couples have declined entry into the facility because the dorms are gender specific,” said Bill Eckert, executive director of Bay Area Homeless Services.
This reason and many others are why it is so important that BAHS has reached its $865,000 capital campaign goal to build a family facility. This cost is for construction only and will not include appliances or furnishings. The need for the facility is acute and has been in the works for many years. Eckert noted that when he was interviewed by BAHS board chair, Pete Alfaro, one of the questions asked was if he felt he could tackle the project in getting this family facility built if he was hired as executive director. The facility will have six efficiency style rooms-each with its own bathroom, as well as a dining/study hall, kitchen, living room with play area and administrative office.
“We’re excited this long process is nearing fruition,” Eckert said. The construction on this project will start in June of 2015 with hopes of completion in 6 to 8 months weather permitting. The construction of this facility will increase emergency shelter capacity by 70%. The current capacity is only 33 beds. Mayor Stephen Don Carlos was the Capitol Campaign Chair and Roger Elswick of Community Auto Group was the Capital Campaign Fundraising Chair.
"We feel very fortunate to be in this community and all of the exstensive support that we recieved in such a timely fashion. The family center will move forward with the construction phase and be completed within a year," said Elswick.
The family shelter will be named the Perry W. and Lou F. Britton Family Shelter, in honor of the generous donation to the project by their family foundation. For additional information on this project contact Bay Area Homeless Services at 281-837-1654 or email Bill Eckert.
Story By: Amber Rokyta Hughes
Coordinator of Marketing & Communications
United Way of Greater Baytown Area & Chambers County