Hickory – Exodus Homes, a faith based United Way agency that provides supportive housing for homeless recovering people, is hanging on in the corona virus pandemic. Programs that serve homeless people are deemed an “essential service” and can remain open even under shelter-in-place orders. While some programs around the state have chosen to close and send their residents elsewhere, Exodus Homes feels it is on their residents best interest to continue operating. With 70 residents and nine program locations, they are faced with the daunting challenge of keeping everyone safe and the doors open.

“We can’t tell our folks to go home and stay there for now because they were homeless when they came here. They are home,” said Exodus Assistance Executive Director, Rev. Susan Smith.

In the last four weeks they have tried to stay ahead of the problem with frequent training about good hygiene, sanitation, and social distancing. As the social distancing requirements get more stringent, the office is off limits except to staff who are placing barriers in their doorways and having conversations with each other over the phone. Executive Director Rev. Reggie Longcrier is committed to keeping the program open saying “We’ve seen hard times before and we know God is bigger than the corona virus.”

The program is experiencing a serious loss of revenue. Last week 10 Exodus Homes residents in the Exodus Works vocational training program lost their full time trainee work assignments in two local furniture factories and are not eligible for unemployment. More lay offs of those employed in the community and others who have trainee positions in other manufacturing companies are very likely in the days to come. Restaurants who donated large amounts of unsold food every week can no longer help them. Numerous Exodus Works jobs for local events and churches have canceled. Calls for general labor have slowed to a trickle as people and businesses in the community are affected by the pandemic. They want the public to know that moving and landscaping are deemed essential services and will continue in the days ahead. Unemployed residents not working in the Exodus Works moving or landscaping services are applying for jobs in grocery stores and food distribution companies. Exodus hopes their residents will be in demand because they are drug free, have reliable transportation, and live in housing that is disinfected daily with social distancing that is strictly enforced.

The requirement to keep gatherings to 10 people or less has drastically changed the recovery programs of the agency. Local 12 step groups are no longer meeting in area churches and in-house meetings have had to split up into small groups scattered across the Exodus properties with an emphasis on social distancing at all times. Some meetings are held outdoors in parking lots when weather permits. Currently residents are not allowed weekend passes to go home and no visitors are allowed on the program.

One of the things they miss most is going to church on Sunday at Exodus Church. The faith based component is optional, but for many residents it is why they wanted to come to Exodus Homes. For now, the Bible Study and worship services are live streamed online and residents can see the sermons of Rev. Reggie Longcrier and Rev. Susan Smith on Facebook.

Exodus Homes’ resident Michael Kendricks expressed his gratitude saying “ I feel blessed to be here because the program I came from has closed, and those guys were turned back to the streets. Now their recovery is jeopardized. This is more than a place to live, and I’m grateful to all Exodus Homes is doing for us because without them I don’t know where we would be.”

Right now Exodus Homes needs donations of disinfecting cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, gloves, masks. and non perishable food. To hire Exodus Works for landscaping, moving, or other outdoor general labor jobs contact Rev. Susan Smith at 828-324-2390 or revsusansmith@gmail.com.
Exodus Homes Executive Director Rev. Reggie Longcrier is seen with social distance barriers in his office at 610 4th St. SW in Hickory.