Open Door Women’s Shelter seeks funding for expansion plans

Published 2:19 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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The Open Door Women’s Shelter capital campaign is in full swing. The shelter is seeking $700,000 to fund the expansion of the existing shelter located at 1240 Cowell Farm Road in Washington.

“We are one of only three active shelters in Northeast North Carolina, which serve over 500,000 women, that take in both women and their children,” said Laurie Stewart, executive director of the Open Door Women’s Shelter. “We are at capacity with three mothers and their children and are continually turning those in need away. We urgently need more space as we are the only shelter of its kind in Beaufort County.”

The plan calls for an additional 3,000 sq. ft., which will add 15 more beds, two family bedrooms, a six-bed dormitory, and two large bathrooms. There will also be a gathering space, a large kitchen where two families can work at the same time, a small office, a conference room with a library, a toy space for kids, computer workspaces for adults, and another laundry room. “Having this space will give us so much more flexibility,” said Stewart. “In January alone, I received 19 calls from those seeking shelter and I had to turn away all but three and refer the others elsewhere. With the new addition, we can provide 24 total beds and we will be saying “no” much less often to those in need.”

The capital campaign provides the opportunity to fill the gap between what has already been raised and in-kind donations. The goal of the capital campaign is to raise $200,000. “We have been reaching out to local businesses, churches, individuals, and community organizations with the hope they host third-party fundraising events,” said Stewart. “We are more than happy to speak at those events to share more about the problem and the need for expanding the shelter. I can’t thank Mary Mehlich at Wine and Words and Gourmet for hosting the event tonight,” said Stewart. “It is always touching to see all of the community support that we are receiving and the eagerness of those who attend the fundraising events to learn more and enquire about how they can help.”

Established in 2017, The Open Door Women’s Shelter was born out of a shared vision to create a safe haven for women and children who are homeless. “As we have learned from our residents, none of us are immune to being homeless,” said Stewart. “The reasons range from mental illness, substance abuse, and those freed from jail. But the biggest reason is those having been evicted because of the inability to pay their mortgage or rent. This is compounded even more by the lack of affordable housing which is few and far between. Rental costs continue to go up, but individuals are not making more, which creates a huge disparity. Our ultimate goal is to help our residents transition to stable housing and a self-sufficient life.”

In doing so, Stewart looks at the Open Door Women’s Shelter as more than just a shelter. “We are a beacon of hope for women and children experiencing homelessness in Beaufort County through a holistic approach. Our dedicated team of staff, volunteers, and community members work tirelessly to provide immediate assistance and long-term solutions. We believe in the power of community and the strength of unity.”

Depending on the outcome of a grant application from the NC Housing Financing Association, construction on the project could get underway sometime this year. “We should know the results of our application by the end of June or the first of July,” said Stewart. “I wish we could start digging right now as I am growing tired of telling women and the children in need of shelter, ‘no’.”

For more information about the capital campaign, visit