Alisa Jordan, Reporter
Sean Martinelli, Editor
After noticing a need for a homeless shelter for women and children in Rome, the Ruth and Naomi Project is expecting to open before the Christmas holiday. The Ruth and Naomi Project, located at 2007 N Broad St., has been under construction since April. Once the William S. Davies men’s shelter was reopened after a bedbug infestation, many calls came in about women looking for places to stay.
Beginning in January, Family Resource Center, Hospitality House, and the men’s shelter started tracking these calls. By June, they had around 150 calls from women looking for shelter.
Nationally, there are limited options for homeless women and children. The Salvation Army provides four beds for single homeless women. The Hospitality House provides shelter for victims of domestic violence, but due to the setup of funding, only 10 percent can be strictly homeless women. Women’s Outreach only provides shelter for women with addiction issues.
In the Rome community, the number of homeless people hovers around 500 people.
“Floyd County Schools and Rome City Schools report 360-390 children in each of the school systems are homeless,” Devon Smyth, director of the Davies Shelter and the Ruth and Naomi Project, said.
“We know that housing 12 women is only scratching the surface; we aren’t going to solve this, but one of things we hope for our program is that we are more than just a bandage,” Smyth said. “We give someone a place to stay, there’s a roof over their head and they have a couple of meals a day that we provide, but beyond that we hope to help them move towards self-sufficiency.”
Emmie Cornell, Berry graduate (’18), the garden manager for the Davies Shelter, is one of these people working on projects to help the shelter and the surrounding community.
Cornell was hired in May to help run the garden that provides food for both the food pantry and the Davies Shelter. The garden supplies produce and participates in farmer’s markets. The money made goes back into the garden and puts healthy food into the community.
Two acres have been donated to be turned into a working farm for the shelter. Cornell has met with people from the South Rome Development and began working on a grant to help fund the farm. This land will be used to supply produce, while teaching the men and women at both shelters about the importance of agriculture. The men and women from the shelters will have the opportunity to work on the farm and get paid.
“We want to make sure that people in these food deserts have access to not only green spaces but to see a healthy farm and how easy it is to produce food,” said Cornell. “One way we will be able to get that food out to people is in a food bus.”
The food bus project is led by Berry’s Creative Technologies program.
“Four students in the class are working with the Davies Group to develop a mobile farmers market that will help their organization bring locally grown produce from community farms into low-income neighborhoods,” Zane Cochran, clinical instructor of creative technologies, said.
SeniorCreative Technology majors Will Knowlton, Spencer Russell, Thomas Brennan and Mason Mancuso are modifying the windows, installing a storage and transport system, and adding a cooler for certain produce. The bus will be finished by the end of the year and given back to the Davies Group for them to use.
The Ruth and Naomi Project is always looking for more volunteers and donations. For more information about the project, visit their Facebook page or call (706) 802-630.