Butler County homeless shelter expects ‘tremendous’ need this year

One coordinator of a Middletown church-based homeless shelter said he expects the need for services to be “tremendous” this winter, one year after setting records for the number of clients served.

Bill Fugate, from Serving Homeless with Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), said he has been contacted by local agencies interested in placing clients in the homeless program.

“Not typical,” he said of the early inquires. “This will be a very busy year and it won’t be weather related. It’s the way it is.”

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Fugate said a number of homeless people have been seen sleeping outside SHALOM’s offices at First United Methodist Church waiting for the center to open later this month. He also has seen “new faces” walking the streets downtown and he believes they will be seeking SHALOM services this winter.

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Two new churches have joined the network. Volunteers from Stratford Heights Church of God and Quest Church will each serve the homeless for one week during the 15-week SHALOM schedule, Fugate said.

In a “perfect world,” Fugate said, 16 churches would serve during the 16 weeks. This year, he said, 12 churches are serving 15 weeks, meaning the Gathering, Holy Family Parish and Christ United Methodist are each responsible for two weeks.

Every year, Fugate contacts Middletown churches to gauge their interest in hosting the homeless for one week. Most are reluctant, he said.

With the number of large churches in Middletown, filling the openings “shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. But some church leaders are reluctant because of the “unknown,” serving people they don’t know, Fugate said.

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Last year, SHALOM set two records: 117 total clients and the number of females served, Fugate said. Before last year, the record was 89, set in 2015-16.

For some people, SHALOM is the last resort, Fugate said. They either stay with SHALOM, live on the streets or under bridges, both “not good situations,” he said.

SHALOM, in its 16th year, begins Nov. 26 and runs through March 11.

Intakes are conducted every day from 4 to 5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 120 S. Broad St. Then a van transports the homeless to the host church where volunteers provide a dinner and breakfast and lodging. Every morning the homeless are transported back to the SHALOM office.

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