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Chesapeake-based nonprofit wants to operate women's shelter

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Divine Inspiration Outreach, a Chesapeake-based group formed in late June, is proposing to reopen a house at 709 Herrington Road in Elizabeth City as a shelter for women and children. The shelter's former operators closed the facility following a bed-bug infestation earlier this year.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A newly-formed nonprofit based in Virginia is asking Elizabeth City officials for $50,000 in recurring funding for three years to restart the city’s closed homeless shelter.

Divine Inspiration Outreach, formed in late June, is proposing to reopen a house at 709 Herrington Road as a shelter for women and children. According to its application, the group is from Chesapeake and its leaders include board chairwoman Wanda Green and director Lisa Dixon.

Divine Inspiration Outreach, or DIO, is seeking to reopen the shelter operated by the now-disbanded Vision of Hope group until early this year. Visions of Hope had been struggling for months to operate the shelter when a bed-bug infestation forced it to ask clients to leave so that the insects could be exterminated.

That closing was apparently the last straw; even after the pests' extermination, the shelter operators didn't seek to reopen it.

That led City Council to solicit proposals from new shelter operators. DIO was the only group to respond as of the city's Aug. 20 deadline.

DIO proposes to reopen and rename the shelter the AGAPE House. It proposes housing up to seven clients, with an eighth spot reserved for the resident manager, Carol Nicholson. The shelter would provide “transitional services” intended to find its women clients permanent housing, allowing them to stay in 30-day increments, according to the proposal. To remain in the shelter longer than a month, women will have to follow all the shelter's rules, including following a curfew, and meet specific goals such as seeking employment daily, the proposal states.

The proposal also states women must be substance-free for at least 90 days to enter the shelter.

The proposal states DIO would seek to partner with Elizabeth City State University, Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, PORT Human Services, Mid-Atlantic Christian University and other groups. It would also refer women to government services, including for housing and other benefits.

The proposal also includes resumes of several people who'd hold important roles at the shelter. They include two mentors, Valencia Welch and Yolanda Davis-Brooks, and Nicholson, the proposed house manager. While Davis-Brooks holds a degree in social work, Welch's work experience is in working for a pharmacy. Nicholson's background is as a cleaning lady; the resume also doesn't include her education.

To fund the shelter, DIO is asking Elizabeth City commit to $50,000 a year for three years, and a “continuation of funding” at an unspecified level in the following years. DIO estimates the shelter's annual budget would be about $54,000. Expenses would include $10,375 for food, $10,000 for utilities and heating gas, $5,550 for “bus passes” to transport clients, and $5,000 for salary and housing.

DIO's proposal also suggests holding fundraisers to provide additional funding for the shelter. It estimates raising $48,000 in a single year, though it's not clear when that fundraising would start.

Asked about DIO’s application on Tuesday, City Manager Rich Olson said it was still under review and he had no recommendation on whether council should proceed with its approval.

Olson also declined to say where in the city's budget he find the $50,000 the council requested to support the shelter’s operations.

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