TIS celebrates one year since opening of singles shelter

Star Democrat, August 4, 2023

EASTON — June 6, 2022, was a momentous occasion for Talbot Interfaith Shelter. That day marked a significant expansion of its mission to end homelessness on the Mid-Shore — the opening of Evelyn’s Place, a shelter for single men and women. In what the organization called a wonderful turn of events, TIS found Evelyn’s Place directly next door to its family shelter, Easton’s Promise.

Talbot Interfaith Shelter’s facilities are not what one would conjure to mind when imagining a homeless shelter. Both buildings are located in Easton’s historic district. A far cry from an industrial setting with cots or bunk beds, these are homes with private bedrooms, communal kitchens, nightly “family dinners” around big dining room tables, shared living areas, laundry facilities, and even spaces to meet with case managers and other service providers.

As the majority of the guests residing at the shelters are coming from trauma, TIS’ goal is to provide immediate comfort and help restore the dignity and self-confidence those guests will need to work their way through TIS’ S4 Program (Shelter, Stability, Support, Success).

S4 is an innovative, comprehensive program designed to guide people experiencing homelessness step-by-step to financial independence and self-sufficiency. This is achieved through rigorous case management, connection to local resources, required life skills training, and, when guests are ready, a move from the shelter environment into one of TIS’ off-site transitional apartments.

The program was developed after Talbot Interfaith Shelter opened its first permanent shelter, Easton’s Promise, in late 2014. Prior to acquiring Easton’s Promise, TIS operated as a cold-weather shelter, rotating through local houses of worship and serving only five people at one time. With a permanent shelter in a homey environment, it was able to serve more people for longer periods of time, enabling the organization to provide more and more services. At the same time, TIS was working hard to procure transitional housing for guests who were ready to leave the shelter but not quite ready to live independently. The S4 Program was born, and continued to grow and change as TIS leadership identified more needs to address within the population being served.

When the pandemic hit, it was an economic blow to many in the community and calls for shelter increased exponentially. TIS had limited capacity and chose to focus on sheltering as many families as possible, which meant turning away single individuals who otherwise would have qualified for the S4 Program. TIS began looking for a second home for those men and women, and as fate would have it, the answer was sitting right next door. They purchased the new building in early 2021 and began the process of renovating it to suit their needs.

They held a contest to name the new shelter, and the community chose the name Evelyn’s Place, in honor of Talbot Interfaith Shelter’s founder, Evelyn Sedlack. In June 2022, the new home welcomed its first guests, and it has remained full ever since.

Since opening day, Evelyn’s Place has served 35 people — 13 men and 22 women. Three of those guests moved into TIS’ transitional housing and four moved directly from the shelter into their own housing. Another mother, who was staying at Evelyn’s Place while case managers helped her reunite with her children, is now living in off-site transitional housing with her family. Fourteen guests found employment during their time at Evelyn’s Place, two were able to purchase their own transportation, and 10 graduated from various life skills classes.

“It has been a wonderful year at Evelyn’s Place,” said TIS Executive Director Julie Lowe. “This expansion has allowed us to help so many more of our neighbors, and we are beyond grateful to our community for their continued support and partnership in the fight against homelessness. They are life changers and life savers, and we know our guests are so appreciative of the opportunities they receive. They know the help comes from the community, and it gives them the faith and confidence to keep going.”

With the opening of Evelyn’s Place and the addition of more transitional apartments, Talbot Interfaith Shelter was able to serve 110 people during the 2022-2023 fiscal year, nearly a 100% increase from the previous year. TIS has hired many new staff members in the past year — two new case managers, several new shelter supervisors, and additional development staff. The additional capacity and programming, coupled with the recent increase in the cost of goods and services, has created a corresponding increase in TIS’ operating budget, which will top $1.3 million for the first time this year.

TIS is currently holding a fundraising appeal to help raise the funds needed to continue serving men, women, and children experiencing homelessness in our community. In addition to providing shelter for neighbors in need, donations to Talbot Interfaith Shelter help case managers assist guests with everything from recovering lost documentation to helping secure employment to applying for disability income and everything in between.

A gift to TIS helps transport guests to health, dental, mental health appointments, as well as meetings with service providers. Donations also help to subsidize the rent in TIS’ transitional apartments while guests work their way towards being able to take over all expenses. In short, every dollar given is a step toward independence for someone in our community.

“I am just astonished at the kindness that people have shown us,” said one of the mothers in TIS’ transitional housing. “I would love to say that I am so thankful for your help, not only for me, but for everyone in the shelter program. I know how much the help that comes in is truly used on a daily basis. It makes our lives easier. I have had to struggle a lot in the past, even getting basic needs, and having these angel people just saying, ‘Here is everything you need,’ and the shelter helping all of us in return has been amazing.”