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Statesboro’s first homeless shelter offers “hand ups” instead of handouts

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Open Hearts Community Mission in Statesboro is officially open (Credit: Shelbey Roberts)

With 30 beds, a community kitchen, a multipurpose room, an arts and crafts room and lounge areas, the Open Hearts Community Mission is the first homeless shelter in Statesboro.

“We want a safe place for people who want an opportunity to get on their feet,” said Jim Lewis, the Executive Director.

Lewis says Open Hearts helps families in need across Bulloch County. But the mission runs a tight ship.

“I’m your mama and your daddy,” Lewis said. “There’s no daytime television and there’s no daytime sleeping unless you’re working a night shift.”

Applicants that are accepted must either have a job or be actively looking for one. They’re also required to waive their rights to public assistance and pass a background check. Lewis says the mission focuses on hand ups, not handouts.

“We’re not looking for people that are just needy and stuck. People that are needy and want a hand up, this is the place for them,” he said.

Open Hearts’ goal is that every resident will be financially stable when they leave. So while they’re living at the mission, residents are encouraged to save up enough money to cover three months of living expenses. With the help of about 180 volunteers, they don’t have to go at it alone.

Lewis said, “We have a case manager, who’s kind of the quarterback. We have a mentor who works on character development and we have life skill coaches.”

Lewis says a resident’s good attitude and willingness to work hard paired with the help of volunteers creates success stories.

“It’s a community thing. People come in to get together, wanting to make a difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors who are going through tough times,” he said.

If you’re interested in more information about Open Hearts Community Mission, visit the organization's website.