County health and other community services gathered at a Gastonia church last week to help the homeless.
Organized by the Gaston County Homelessness Prevention Committee, Hope Fest connected those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with volunteering agencies that could provide services such as mental and physical health screenings, dental services, vaccines, pet care, information on Gaston College and more.
The June 30 event held at First United Methodist Church also provided free showers and a free store while supplies lasted.
The mission was to work with all the non-profits in a collaborative effort, said Vincent Wong, who leads the city of Gastonia's community development efforts.
“We know there’s a need in the community,” he said Thursday. “We want people to know that we’re here to help and give people a little bit of hope that the community is going to come together and help everybody in need.”
Another goal of the Hope Fest was to gain information on what is needed in the community. Gregory Grier, chairperson of the Homelessness Prevention Committee, said they asked each resource provider to tally the number of people that came to their booth.
From those tallies, they look at what resources were most utilized. They then go back to the committee and discuss the needs of the community and how they can improve to provide the most accurate services.
Whether they be elderly, middle-aged, or children, Grier said he is motivated to help make sure they have resources just like anyone else.
Gastonia native, Jeffery Martin, was walking on his prosthetic leg looking for the help he’s been needing since he lost his home two years ago on Safeway Drive, Gastonia.
“A fire started in the kitchen and it just burned my three-bedroom home down,” he said. Without a home to return to, he came to the Hope Fest event for help.
He said help has become scarcer since COVID-19, but he was glad that they were hosting the Hope Fest.
“I got in a car accident (in 2014), ended up having to have my leg amputated and it made me disabled,” Martin said. “Had to have surgery on my back and my arm.” Despite this, he was grateful that he could walk again and optimistically stated that he’s “out here living life, now.”
Some others needed help to ensure that their furry companions could have a better life, even without a home. John Boseman, who lost his home due to financial problems a few months back, was getting dog food that the Hope Fest provided.
Boseman sees many older people who are homeless and says that it is important for them to have a nice shelter for them to call home during the day as well as at night. On the other hand, he feels that children should also receive more help.
“Kids being homeless saddens my heart,” he said.
Originally from Charlotte, Boseman has been in Gastonia for roughly 20 years. “I think it’s wonderful,” he said about the Hope Fest. “It’s great; people coming together to help.”
Ella Stephens, who works for the Salvation Army, attended the Hope Fest with her two sisters, Tammy and Wanda. Stephens said that this was a wonderful way to help people in need get back on their feet, but that it was also important to keep in mind that people can have a home and still need access to help.
“People that are paying rent on no income, things like that, they also need resources to survive in America,” she said.
In Stephens’ case, she has a home but cannot get the right health insurance for dental care. As a result, she came to use Hope Fest’s dental services.
Thanks to the Hope Fest, many people in need were able to come by and get some of the resources they needed.
Grier says a lot of organization went into the Hope Fest, and he appreciates all those who helped make it happen, including the Gaston County Manager’s Office and the Board of County Commissioners, which endorsed this project.
This helped the Homelessness Prevention Committee provide the services the community needs, and they plan to continue improving in any way they can, he said.
Luc Séguret, a rising senior at Western Carolina University, is working as a reporter for The Gaston Gazette until he returns to school in August. He can be reached at 828-206-2544 or email him at LSeguret@Gannett.com.
This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Gaston County event brought hope to the homeless