KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Terri Stancil’s quest to help the homeless came to her in a dream that she believes was sent by God, telling her she needed to start her own soup kitchen and homeless shelter.
The experience led to her creating Operation Homeless, Inc.
“He gave me the dreams, he gave me the visions and he told me everything he wanted, how to do it and everything else,” Stancil said.
But she didn’t initially jump right into creating Operation Homeless, Inc., an organization that helps the homeless and low-income families. Stancil said she knew the challenges she would face starting her own organization. But she kept seeing homeless people and began to feel that helping them was her calling.
“Everywhere I went, he put the homeless in my path. He was putting them in my path and telling me that’s what he wanted me to do,” Stancil said. “I said, ‘God, this is too big for me. I can’t do this.’ But I knew he wouldn’t ask me to do something that he knew I couldn’t do.”
She first had her dreams in November 2011, setting her on a path that would lead to her opening Operation Homeless in November 2013.
The organization is having its first open house this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. with its thrift store opening its doors for the first time. The event will feature food and music as well as activities for children at the facility at 511 Old Centergrove Road, Kannapolis, in the old Child Care of Kannapolis building.
Since opening Operation Homeless, Stancil has organized a soup kitchen, a clothing closet and a food pantry that operate Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Stancil also provides access to a shower for individuals, and a washer and dryer for the homeless and low income-families.
She and her husband are also purchasing a house on Tuesday for about $19,000 that sits behind the organization’s headquarters. The house needs plenty of work and will require thousands of dollars in renovations, but when it is finished the home will be able to house four to six people.
Operation Homeless has been a largely private venture for Stancil.
“My husband and I have put a lot of money into it,” she said. Though she gets support from area churches and individuals, the personal costs add up. She said she spends an average of $2,000 a month on rent, utilities, food and other supplies.
Stancil hopes eventually to open a homeless shelter at the roughly 10,000-square-foot building. She said the building needs a new sprinkler system and a fire alarm before she can move forward on offering a homeless shelter.
She said the renovations will cost more than $100,000, but when complete she will be able to provide a shelter for 40 individuals, housing them for 30- to 60-day periods.
But visitors to Operation Homeless don’t necessarily get a handout. Stancil said everyone she helps has to earn the aid they receive. That could mean volunteering in the soup kitchen or in the clothing center, doing odds and ends. They could also be hired in the community to do yard work and such.
“They have to be productive, they have to be a part of the workforce,” she said. “Whether it’s here or we get them outside or whatever, they have to be working in something in order to stay here. If they don’t, they can’t stay.”
Currently, Stancil said her soup kitchen serves about 40 to 50 people each day she serves meals. She knows that number can grow, since her organization is still fairly new.
“A lot of people don’t know we are here,” she said.
The soup kitchen operates three days a week, but Stancil eventually wants to expand that to adding Saturdays.
“I just can’t get enough volunteers to do it yet,” Stancil said.
She also wants to have the thrift store open more often. It will be open this Saturday, and sales from items will help sustain Operation Homeless operations. But Stancil also needs volunteers to run the store. She said for now she will only be able to have the store open one or two days a month.
“I just don’t have enough people to open it, because I’m spending seven days a week here as it is,” she said. Stancil said she has about 50 volunteers right now.
Stancil said she constantly sees the need to help the homeless in the community. She said she recently visited a “Tent City” that had been set up in woods near B.E. Kluttz Lumber Co. on Davidson Drive in Concord.
The “Tent City” had more than 40 homeless people there. She believes that from China Grove to Concord there are more than 300 “invisible” homeless people living in the woods – “that people don’t even know exist,” she said. “But they are homeless and they are there because of different circumstances.”
It’s the circumstances of those homeless people that will guide how Stancil helps those who ask for her aid.
“You are not going to save every homeless person, because you have chronic homeless. That’s their life, that’s the way they are and that’s the way they are going to be,” she said. “The ones that we really are focused on are families that have become homeless, because they have lost their job, they have lost their home, they have lost their car, they have lost everything.”
Contact Michael Knox at 704-789-9133.