Gastonia Salvation Army announces it’s closing shelter

GASTONIA, N.C. — Wednesday morning, the operators of the Salvation Army announced they are closing the only shelter in Gastonia for people without a home.

The news stunned some people on the street and at the shelter, and Channel 9′s Ken Lemon learned that they will stop taking new visitors on July 15.

After that, they will shut down the shelter entirely about a month and a half later.

The Salvation Army says they are doing this to prevent homelessness, and they say they’re putting more focus on the root cause of the problem.

Many people told Lemon they fear this means there will be more people back on the streets instead of in a warm bed.

That includes Rosemarie James, who is 68 years old and recently had back and knee surgery. She needs a walker to get around, and the though of being turned out of the only shelter in town frightens her.

“I’ll be out in a tent again in the woods, I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. I’m scared out there in those woods,” James told Lemon.

She is in a program to move people from the shelter to a permanent home, but there are three people lined up to get housing before her.

“I hope I’m gone before they close it down,” James said.

The Salvation Army said in a statement that relying on a shelter is “not the most cost-effective, transformative way to serve those experiencing temporary homelessness.”

Dwayne Burks is director of the The Gateway Gaston, a group that helps people facing homelessness. He says the Salvation Army can proactively fight to keep people housed, but it will need a massive buy-in from groups like Gateway.

“This community can come together and help, but we need to know what their plan is,” Burks said.

Burks worries it may be too late to help many of the people who rely on the shelter.

“They are going to be at the mercy of the streets,” he said.

(VIDEO: Salvation Army launches new campaign to raise money for programs that will help thousands)

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