By Ali Nicole

Café, shelter, youth program, respite center, and thrift store: HALO Ministry is all of those things and more. HALO, standing for Hope and Life Outreach, has been dedicated to bringing hope, resources, and spiritual support to those locals finding themselves homeless  for going on 13 years. Through a variety of programs, HALO seeks to make a sustainable impact on the local area and its people.

HALO was founded by Celeste Savage, current CEO and Executive Director, who describes an evolving journey for HALO. When it began, HALO provided a short-term shelter for homeless men at a local church. Seeing the need to serve more people, and for a longer period of time, the non-profit organization branched out on its own.

Shown is HALO founder and CEO and Executive Director Celeste Savage. Photo by Ali Nicole

Once an independent entity, a women’s shelter was put into place and shortly after came the HOTS initiative. HOTS, or HALO on the street, saw Savage and other HALO pioneers out in the community bringing meals directly to the homeless population of our local area. At that time, they were able to serve 40 people a night. With the opening of The HALO Café, they’re now able to serve 106 people at a time and last year, according to Savage, they provided more than 71,000 meals to the community.

Due to the needs of the local population, HALO became a 24/7 – 365 operation providing shelter to women and children and meals to those in need. An addition of a men’s shelter meant they could provide shelter access to roughly 100 people. The basic needs for the guests served were met, but HALO’s work was far from finished. Savage explained that they wanted to, “help break the cycle of homelessness,” and, thus, the development and expansion of HALO’s programs.

To truly impact and support the people being served by HALO—whom staff members respectfully call “guests”—a number of programs have been created. A children and youth program called Eagle Wings offers opportunities for the children involved with HALO’s services, including afterschool tutoring, life skills classes, and fun activities. The Resource and Respite Center (the R&R) offers a place to be during daytime hours when the shelter is not open. In partnership with local agencies, the R&R hosts classes to teach a multitude of life skills from hygiene to budgeting, making it more than just a place to be out of the elements.

A more intensive, 12-month program called Journey of Hope taps into all of what HALO works to provide and achieve. As HALO is a Christian-based organization, the foundation of its Journey of Hope program is biblical. From that foundation, the program utilizes all of what HALO has to offer to support the development of life skills, job readiness, wellness, and recovery.

Another key part of HALO is its Bargain Center. The Bargain Center is both a thrift store and a center for donation drop-offs. In addition to being open for all public to shop, the thrift store gives HALO guests a place to shop for clothing and shoes with “HALO dollars” provided by the shelter. This extension of HALO is also one of its funding resources.

Overall, most funding and donations come from the surrounding community, according to Savage. She indicates that much of what they do is made possible because of the generosity of the community. Local businesses, agencies, churches, and other community groups can work with HALO to run fundraisers and drives. HALO lets the community know what items are most needed via social media, but the website and calling directly is another way to find out what donations are in highest demand.

Further, the organization is in the midst of a five year campaign, Building a Foundation of Hope, with a goal of raising two million dollars and they’re nearly halfway there. The Building a Foundation of Hope campaign will fund the continued growth of HALO’s amenities and programs, and expand their presence in the community. Residents of the area may have notice a new, lighted sign at their location on South Boulevard in Salisbury, one of the results of this campaign. A new major project: expansion of the men’s shelter, adding showers and increasing the number of bathrooms available, which will begin construction next month. Programming and resource expansion is also in the works as HALO looks towards creating more support for and access to mental health and addictions treatment and resources for guests.

The success of HALO doesn’t just come from funding and community donations, it comes from volunteers as well. The organization sees about 700 volunteers at this time, but there’s always room for more. Because this shelter is open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day, Savage stressed the importance of volunteers and is continuing to look for more volunteer support. Every fourth Sunday in all months other than December, a volunteer training is held and from there the volunteer chooses where they would like to provide their time and skills.

There are many ways in which the community can support this organization which does so much to support the community.

Through Oak Ridge Baptist Church, a Paint Night will be held to raise funds for HALO on Feb. 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. The support gained for HALO allows them to help, “restore the dignity back to the individual,” as they serve each person, according to Savage.