Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

In the first four months of 2017, Macon New Beginnings served 90 men, women and children suffering from homelessness or near homelessness. Of that number, 31 were children and 23 people needed crisis sheltering.

“Our vision is to see the homeless and nearly homeless become a fruit-bearing member of the community,” said Bob Bourke of Macon New Beginnings. “Our mission is motivated by Christian principles to lead the Macon community in helping the homeless and nearly homeless.”

As part of Macon New Beginnings’ mission, the organization announced last week that the second phase in a strategic planning process to address homelessness in Macon County has been completed.

The Macon Community led by Macon New Beginnings, Inc. and Integrated Organizational Design, Inc., with funding from the Evergreen Foundation, have completed the second phase of a strategic plan.  The plan provides a road map for the Macon County community to address its homeless challenge for the next three years. The first two stages of the plan identified strengths, opportunities, aspirations and methods to track results (SOAR), and prioritized objectives.  The next phase is to build the community’s implementation team focused on accomplishing the plan’s goals and objectives.

“The strategic plan process includes several phases: Data collection, data analysis and plan development, deployment, and evaluation,” said Bourke. “We completed the data collection, and data analysis and plan development phases.”

With data collected in the county on the homeless situation, Bourke said the next step is implementation which involves action and change to help those in need in the community.

“The next step is implementation,” said Bourke. “We will be discussing the plan goals and objectives at our next volunteer meeting on  Aug. 7, 5 pm, hopefully at the newly renovated community building.  The plan’s goals and objectives relate to client services, volunteers, community relations, fundraising, and operations.  These are all interrelated with the common element being volunteers.  We will be reaching out to the community for the volunteers to help implement the plan.”

According to Bourke, the efforts of Macon New Beginnings and its volunteers is important to raise awareness and gain an understanding of those facing homelessness in the community,

“We have had a few years’ experience helping the homeless and nearly homeless of Macon County,” said Bourke. “It was time to evaluate those experiences, gain more community insight, assimilate homeless best practices and set a sustainable path for the future.”

The second phase of the plan confirmed that while WNC has beautiful mountains, great weather, great outdoor activities, etc. the greatest aspect of Macon County are the people.  “The Macon community is compassionate, generous and willing to help those less fortunate,” said Bourke. “It also confirmed that Macon New Beginnings is on the correct path to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Bourke noted that the best way to understand the strategic plan is an analogy.

“An analogy may be of help,” he said. “Take a map. First assume we want to go somewhere and we have some basic knowledge of maps and travel. There are any number of possible destinations.  Even with a destination selected, there are lots of different ways to get there.  Once a destination and route is selected then specific steps can be taken to get there, i.e., when to start, what exit, where to turn left, etc. Strategic planning is a process that involves various stakeholders.  In the case of the Macon Homeless Strategic Plan, the Macon community (commissioners, council members, service providers, homeless, landlords, donors, volunteers, etc.) as well as other constituents (other towns, counties who have addressed the homeless challenge).  These stakeholders confirm the vision and mission and provide insight into the goals.  From there goals and objectives are developed and implemented.  Evaluations of the successes and failures are made along the way.  Adjustments are also made as necessary.”

Based on knowledge and experience the destination is selected (vision and missioned confirmed).  With the destination in mind the route is selected (goals and objectives established).  “From there we begin the journey; when do we leave, what exits to take, where and when to turn left, food, fuel etc. (specific, measurable, achievable and time oriented objectives are implemented and results monitored),” explained Bourke. “Integrated Organizational Development, Inc. (IOD) was hired for its independence, homelessness expertise, and objectivity.  IOD, also ensured a comprehensive planning process and that the process was inclusive of all appropriate stakeholders.  IOD conducted interviews, online surveys, meetings, and discussions; researched solutions from around the world, in our state, and WNC.  That data has been analyzed and summarized.  We have formulated our goals and are now at the implementation phase.  Now we begin our journey.”