More Than Just a Shelter: Helen Wright Center a Pathway Home

Urban Ministries of Wake County mission: To engage our community to serve and advocate on behalf of those affected by poverty by providing food and nutrition, promoting health and wellness, and by laying the foundations of home. Laying the foundations of home. More than 800 Wake County women each year experience homeless. What are we doing about such a staggering representation of homelessness in our community? 

The absolute best we can through one of our programs, the Helen Wright Center for Women. 

Helen Wright, formerly the Ark Center, was established almost four decades ago in 1984 after two homeless Raleigh men died from hypothermia. It originally offered shelter to 25 men before becoming a women’s shelter. Now, 38 years later, the Helen Wright Center houses 73 beds in a state-of-the-art facility and provides guests with programs to help them find a long-term path beyond their circumstances, including the opportunity to enroll in workforce development program initiated in 2021.  

Our Helen Wright Center is more than an overnight shelter, but also a place where those in an unfortunate situation can learn job readiness and life skills through partnerships with local agencies like Dress for Success, ProTrain, Jobs for Life, and Personify. We also partner with BB&T, Coastal Credit Union, Wake Technical Community College, Carolina Outreach, Alliance Behavioral Health, Healing Transitions, Advance Community Health, Alliance Medical Ministries, Campbell Law Clinic, Wake County Human Services, First Presbyterian Church, and Edenton Street UMC for financial confidence, mental health and addiction support, legal services, and financial assistance respectively. 

Since last year, our women have benefitted from the newly implemented workforce development program. Forty-five women graduated from the program with certifications for pharmacy technician, medical administrative assistant, and physical therapy technicians.  

Assisting women in achieving confidence and stability, HWCW guests have access to comprehensive case management services to facilitate outpatient health services, mental and substance abuse referrals, life skills training, employment training and assistance and legal services. Through the Bridge to Home program in partnership with Wake County, emergency casework programs were implemented to better engage our HWCW guests during their stay and to connect them with needed interventions to help transition them out of homeless. This program addresses mental, physical, and spiritual needs to promote overall wellbeing by offering on-site medical and mental health support, as well as therapeutic groups including Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and groups focusing on general health.  

Forty-one women entered permanent housing last year. 

Laying the foundations of home.