The growing number of homeless is threatening to force closure of Cincinnati’s largest homeless shelter, and though the problem isn’t as bad locally, Highland County Homeless Shelter Executive Director Greg Hawkins says his facility is always there “to get people housed and back on their feet.”
According to a recent news report that aired on WKRC-TV, Bethany House Services has more people in need than funds to help them with 90 percent of their families being women locked in a struggle to take care of their children, with children comprising roughly 70 percent of those helped by the shelter.
Hawkins said that in this area, though the majority of people coming to the homeless shelter are women and children, he has seen annual trends where the greater part of those helped were families, while another year it may have been large numbers of women with or without children and depending on circumstances another year may see an influx of single men.
The Highland County Homeless Shelter came into being in 2004, he said, and is a 501(c)(3) non-profit emergency facility with 28 beds, and serves single men, single women, and families with children.
He said the shelter is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and offers those in need temporary shelter for up to 90 days.
“We don’t receive any local tax dollars and we’re not state-funded, and our agency is strictly grant and donor funded,” he said. “About 65 percent of our operating costs are funded through cash matching grants from the Ohio Development Services Agency, the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program, South Central Power Company and several other small grants, with the remaining 35 percent of our total costs derived from local donations and fundraisers.”
He said the problem with finances never goes away due to the fact the local shelter is always in need of funds for necessities such as food, utilities and day to day operations.
The shelter has three priority objectives: to provide excellent service to homeless and at-risk clients, to provide education and outreach to potential corporate donors and secure tiered, corporate commitment and match grant funding to remain operational.Hawkins added that its mission is to provide safe, temporary housing for homeless individuals and families, and to aid them with the resources and referrals to help them obtain and maintain permanent housing.
“We provide a complete case-managed program that assists the client with overcoming the barriers which led them to homelessness,” he said.
The face of the homeless in Highland County, Hawkins said, could be someone living with a neighbor due to loss of a job or a work related injury, or the death of a spouse that brought them to the homeless shelter due to not being able to keep up the payments on a house which led to foreclosure.
Hawkins drew a comparison between the face of the homeless in a city as opposed to a rural setting, describing the homeless population in a city as “in your face and you see it everywhere,” but in a rural community he portrayed it as “a lot of couch surfing” for people who are in between places to live.
“We get a lot of young families, individuals coming out of foster care with no place to go,” he said. “Some of the folks we help have come out of rehab or the judicial system, may have mental health issues, or have just had a run of back luc — we just never know who is going to walk through the doors.”
A recent news release indicated that some of the services offered at the homeless shelter include benefit application assistance for food stamps (SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid, cash assistance through TANF and SSI (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income), disability benefits through SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), veteran’s services and many more.
There is also help available with writing a resume, searching for employment, obtaining a GED, budgeting and finance, food and nutrition, medical appointments and prescriptions, parenting classes, and general life skills, he said.
“Rapid-rehousing programs are available to aid a client in securing stable housing, and referrals for mental health, addiction, domestic violence, veterans and youth services are provided while at the shelter,” Hawkins said. “Bedding, clothing, toiletries and all food are provided during the client’s stay, allowing them to have a safe, secure, stable environment to begin to rebuild their lives.”
He said donations of food and cleaning products help the shelter meet its annual budget, and that it welcomes monetary donations via PayPal accounts on the shelter’s website at www.hcshelter.org and Facebook page, or can be mailed to Highland County Homeless Shelter, 145 Homestead Ave., Hillsboro, Ohio 45133.
When asked to sum up the mission of the Highland County Homeless Shelter, Hawkins called it “a safe place for people to come to so they don’t have to live on the street.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.