Cove House looks to expand
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Cove House Emergency Shelter, located at 108 E. Halstead Avenue, is looking to expand in the not-too-distant future.
According to Executive Director Brian Hawkins, the Cove House, which operates a free clinic and an Emergency Shelter system with four houses that can house men, women and families, has desires to triple its capacity in a two-phase plan.
“Even with COVID, we had a great year last year,” Hawkins said. “The demand for shelter went up, actually, but our ability to help people in some ways went down for a little while just because of trying to spread people out. We’d lowered our numbers for a while.”
Hawkins mentioned that the Cove House has developed a long-term program for people to get back on their feet.
“We’ve developed a program we call ‘Firm Foundation,’ to give them a firm foundation for a new life spiritually, physically and financially, and when they leave here, we want them to be able to move in to permanent housing,” Hawkins said.
In 2020, the Cove House was able to help move 31 people into permanent housing.
“We’re very excited about that,” Hawkins said. “We just need more room. We’ve needed more room for a couple of years. We’ve been doing some fundraising now, and we’ve got a two-phase building project that we want to do.”
Hawkins added that the plans were “speculative desires” and that he plans to meet with the appropriate city board officials to discuss what is possible and not possible.
“These are desires for growth of the Cove House, but we’ll go through the same building process that anybody would need to go to to make sure we build within the guidelines and ordinances of the city,” Hawkins said.
The intended Phase I will be to move the two houses on Halstead Street and build a six-plex. This would allow for six units instead of the current two units, doubling the current capacity from four units to eight units. The units would be two bedrooms, with at least one bath, though Hawkins said they might make that 1.5 baths.
For a short period, this six-plex would be used for men and women’s housing until Phase II is built. The six-plex would also feature laundry facilities for the residents.
Phase II would include moving the two buildings and the storage building on Main Street and putting in a two-story structure to act as a dorm for men. and women’s housing upstairs with office space, a commercial kitchen and a dining hall able to seat up to 40 people that will double as a classroom/conference room.
Hawkins said that the shelter is also looking at educational opportunities for the residents, which requires the larger space.
Once these two buildings are built, the shelter’s overall capacity will be tripled.
“We expect that to be able to take care of the homeless here in Copperas Cove, and we’ve been here for 25 years with what we have, so we feel like what we’re building will last at least the next 25 years,” Hawkins said. “We’re always going to be looking forward and looking for new opportunities.”
As of press time, Cove House has 14 residents, and the shelter is trying to maintain a lower number of residents leading up to the building phases.
Cove House has even turned one of the houses into a Quarantine House in case any residents test positive for COVID-19.
“If somebody gets sick, I don’t want everybody to get sick,” Hawkins said. “I don’t want to have to move that person out because they’re sick, so we’ve maintained some space to use as quarantine space.”
Hawkins shared that the plan is to use Habitat for Humanity as the builder for the project. Once finalized, the Cove House will be looking for donation of materials and extra time to build. Hawkins estimated that Phase I will cost around $300,000.
Hawkins also mentioned that the shelter has changed a bit over the past 25 years.
“There’s been a shelter here since 1985, but in 1995, an organization that formed the LLC for the Cove House took over the property, and in 2015, the city actually gave the buildings to the Cove House,” Hawkins said. “We’d been renting them for the prior 20 years. I feel like the city is very supportive of everything we do here.”
When Hawkins joined Cove House six years ago, the facility was a short-term shelter, with residents having just two weeks before they had to move on.
“We learned very quickly that if you have nothing, two weeks is not enough time to put together anything,” Hawkins said. “Even if you already have a job, which a lot of our residents don’t, you’re not even getting a paycheck by the time you get to two weeks. You’re certainly not likely to have a paycheck big enough to go do water deposit, electric deposit, rent deposit, first month’s rent.”
Hawkins said that two weeks with shelter was better than not, but it is not enough to accomplish the goal of not being homeless.
“People ask me all the time how long can somebody stay at the Cove House, and I tell every one of them, it’s up to them,” Hawkins said. “We are going to set milestones that they need to meet.”
The residents will have to set a budget and work towards getting on their feet, he added. As long as the residents are putting in the work towards finding a job and saving money towards their future, they are welcome at the Cove House, Hawkins added.
“It’s absolutely up to them,” Hawkins said. “They have to follow the rules, and they have to be moving forward.”
Hawkins also shared that the Cove House has received a donated vehicle which it has passed along to a resident to use.
“Transportation is a huge problem,” Hawkins said. “Most of them don’t have vehicles which limits you job-wise to where you can walk to, and as good as our bus system is, it doesn’t allow for people to work nights and weekends, so you can’t get a job in Killeen or Harker Heights where you have to work evenings or weekends because it’s just not feasible to walk that far to work. That restricts a lot of job opportunities, so as we have more vehicles for our residents, then that just expands their opportunities and their income potential to give them a better opportunity to be back out on their own as quickly as possible.”
Hawkins added that the plans for the future of Cove House would only be possible with financial support.
People can donate to the Cove House by visiting the website at https://www.covehouse.org/donate.