The Highland County Homeless Shelter could receive a $25,000 grant from State Farm Insurance, and area residents can vote online to bring that money in to benefit the facility located on Homestead Avenue in Hillsboro.
According to local State Farm agent Amatha Ferrens, who is also chair of the homeless shelter governing board, the local shelter is one of the top 200 finalists in the insurance company’s Neighborhood Assist Grant program that will awarding 40 different $25,000 grants to deserving civic and social service interests across the country.
“It can mean a lot just from the different outreach programs for the residents,” Ferrens said. “For our shelter individually, it’s a lot of money, since we’re operated independently based on grants and fundraisers, not to mention donations from our community.”
She said many of the shelters in surrounding counties don’t enjoy the freedom to operate independently since they’re managed and operated by county commissioners.
Greg Hawkins, the shelter’s executive director, said the local facility is solely operated and managed by a board of directors, and echoed Ferrens’ statement that the local homeless shelter is still very much independent, which means that funding and grants are raised locally, and that those who utilize the shelter are a different makeup.
“Many of your shelters now are becoming men only or women only,” Ferrens said. “We have a men’s, women’s and two family dorm areas. We are housing families and often have several kids that are up there.”
She said there are many opportunities that the grant could be used for, but the main focus is on efforts that directly benefit the residents.
There are specific rules and guidelines for the intake of residents into the shelter set forth by the state of Ohio, she said, with the main goal of securing positive housing for those that enter the shelter in less than 90 days.
“These are not criminals or substance abusers, and this is not a halfway house,” she said. “These can be your neighbors, friends or family members that need assistance for one reason or another, like falling short on hours at work, losing their job, or some other situation where ends just do not meet.”
She said it can be tough sometimes making those ends meet, citing a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition that stated a person working a minimum wage job would have to work a 58 hour week to afford a one-bedroom rental home at today’s fair market rent value.
Anyone can take part in the vote to help the Highland County Homeless Shelter win a share of $1 million in grant funding in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program by going to www.neighborhoodassist.com/entry/2023731, registering their valid email address, and verifing they are at least 18 years of age.
She added that at no point will there be any marketing solicitation, and no purchase is necessary.
Voting is limited to a 10-day window from midnight Aug. 14 until Aug. 23 at 11:59 p.m., she said. Once the email address has been registered, people can vote up to 10 times per day, every day, per email address.
“I feel very confident that our local homeless shelter can get one of these grants,” she said. “It will take a community in order to make this happen, and that’s why we’re spreading the word and reaching out to family and friends, and we’re asking this community to wrap their arms around this and support it for the benefit of Highland County.”
Winners will be announced Sept. 25.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.