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Residents Feel Sense of Pride after RTMC and World Bank Group Renovates Homeless Shelter

World Bank/Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless

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On September 29th, the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless Men’s Shelter got a much-needed facility facelift to enhance both the aesthetic of the building and renovate its heavily used common spaces. Since its founding in 1990, the shelter has provided both short and long-term solutions to homeless men in the form of emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing. Thanks to the World Bank volunteers and the RTMC team, this facility will continue to provide shelter for years to come.

The Men’s Shelter at the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless is a remarkable space, serving about 700 residents each year. During the winter months, known as hypothermia season, the shelter has the capacity to reach up to 230 residents at once. The facility has been open since 2000, and has seen 16 years of serving residents at this high rate. Throughout these past 16 years, the building experienced extensive wear and tear that the dedicated staff at MCCH could not repair on their own.

Of chief concern was the main men’s bathroom, which was in urgent need of critical repairs. After years of high volume use, the restroom facility was not what it once was. The restroom floors had been damaged by raw sewage leakage and the toilets were inoperable.  The entire space needed a deep-clean and the walls needed to be re-painted. This is the largest bathroom in the facility and because of the condition that it was in prior to starting the project, it was hardly ever used.

The shelter was also in need of some cosmetic repairs, such as painting the walls, cleaning, and organizing to brighten up the space, making it more inviting to residents. There was plenty of work to be done and the volunteer group from the World Bank came ready to work hard!

The 30 committed and energized World Bank volunteers arrived bright and early on a dreary Thursday morning to begin work. The group gathered for a brief introduction and team meeting before breaking into the cleaning and repair gear. The largest group of volunteers spent the day making repairs to the bathroom, and painting the walls inside the bathroom and the surrounding hallways. Another group focused on deep cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen, tossing out expired food for a safer and healthier kitchen.  Others focused on cleaning the laundry room, building storage shelves for the area, and reorganizing the professional clothing closet. With each passing hour, the facility transformed, and by the end of the day, the residents were all speaking of the great improvements made to their new space.

Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless’ Executive Director, Susie Sinclair-Smith, was overwhelmed with the building’s new look. She shared that some of the repair work that was done made her reflect on her life, and how lucky she feels.  “To have you come in and in one day, or a couple days, transform our men’s bathroom into a dignified area – it made me think how lucky I am to have my own bathroom… and to have a bathroom that really meets their needs is great.”

Susie was also pleased with the kitchen clean-up, explaining that it is one of the most highly used spaces in the facility. Thousands of meals are donated to the men’s shelter at MCCH yearly and volunteers come in frequently to serve meals to the residents, illustrating how the shelter builds and strengthens community by putting the needs of our most vulnerable county residents first. Susie speaks of a particular transition that occurs during mealtime, saying that “men have gone from being invisible to being in the shelter and being served”, and how much that does for their emotional well-being.

Shelter residents felt that sense of community throughout the World Bank’s volunteer day. Kevin, one of the residents of the men’s shelter, was thankful for the bathroom renovation, “I know the bathroom is renovated and that’s a big help. I rarely used that bathroom you renovated [because of the deteriorated condition], and now I see them [both restrooms] as being equal.” He also mentioned the importance of the deep clean of the kitchen, stating that many of the residents have health issues and need their meals to come from a space that is as healthy as possible. Healthy and safely prepared foods not only nurture our bodies but our souls as well.

When the day was finished, I had the chance to sit down with World Bank team member Nana Maiga as she shared her thoughts on the experience. She had never been involved in a project like this before and was thrilled to have the chance to participate. Not only was she grateful for the impact the World Bank had on the shelter, she was simply glad to be giving back. “I’m very impressed with the work you do, and it’s such a positive environment. You can tell it’s important… to treat people with dignity. I can’t wait [to] come back next year!”

All told, the project day was tremendously successful! In addition to being important for the health and safety of the men’s shelter, the impact of the day is undoubtedly lasting for residents. Seeing a team of volunteers come in to help care for the facility and the residents was truly uplifting for many. Kevin spoke of the day’s significance, “as far as people coming in and doing things like this, emotionally it helps just to see people coming in that care.”

Thanks to the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless for inviting us into their space and to the World Bank for their commitment and dedication to our neighbors in need!