“I think that’s a big cause with the up-rise in homelessness, if people get laid off they’re going to lose their home because they’re not getting their unemployment for a month,” Michael said. “This is the first time in my life I’ve ever been homeless ever, and now mind you bad decisions have contributed to getting me here, but if I would have received unemployment in the first week or two I wouldn’t be here.”
He called Butler County Job and Family Services but was told he needed to apply in-person for public assistance, which meant traveling to Hamilton. He noted it’s hard for the homeless in other locations to get to the county seat.
BCJFS Executive Director Julie Gilbert told the Journal-News her offices cannot help with unemployment benefits — that is purely a state function — they are responsible for food stamps and other assistance and provide it in numerous locations.
She said they do have a representative from the state stationed at the Ohio Means Jobs office in Fairfield and many other services.
“There are representatives at our Ohio Means Jobs center from the state who help them with that, if they are collecting unemployment or trying to get unemployment they do need to come in or they can go online, they just need to prove they’re looking for employment,” she said. “But many people who are on unemployment come into our resource room, it has free internet, they have access to job opportunities, they have access to a fax machine, a printer and things that help them get information out to prospective employers.”
Amy Miller, who operates the OMJ center, said they have been getting an average 1,000 people a month at the center and the numbers are increasing.
She said the state employee is there to offer “meaningful assistance” — a state phrase —to people, like help with password resets and other tasks, “but everything is done either online or by phone through ODJFS.”
Michael said it has taken him hours on end trying to get his unemployment benefits and was told it was due to a backlog back to May. Dasia Clemente, a spokeswoman from the state, told the Journal-News it’s not a backlog it’s high call volume — more than 31,000 calls last week.
“While we continue to explore ways to improve customer service, we encourage individuals to apply on-line, as it is the quickest and easiest way to apply,” Clemente said. “It is also important to point out that once an application is made it can take several weeks or more to process, as they generally require us to collect additional information from the claimant and their former employer.”
Gilbert said for all other public assistance such as food stamps, her employees in Hamilton are there to assist people, but they also have an outreach person out in the field to help. He is equipped with a computer so he can help people do whatever they would normally do in their offices.
“We’ve been exploring other options on are there other places that would benefit from us spending some time in their space,” Gilbert said adding that would probably require more staff. “That is always a struggle with us in that we are hiring and we do have a workforce shortage. There is a desire to do more outreach however with the workforce we currently have it’s difficult.”
Miller said for said those with transportation issues they have an arrangement with the Butler County Regional Transportation Authority so buses from Hamilton, Middletown and Oxford stop at the OMJ office.
Shawn Cowan, BCRTA communications manager, said they also have free training for new riders on how to use the system.
“Travel training is tailored to the individual needs of the rider and includes route planning, getting to a bus stop, knowing which stop to disembark at, reading the bus schedules, and booking trips if using our BGo service,” she said. “The Hamilton Oxford Connector (R3) and the Job Connector (R6) currently have stops at Ohio Means Jobs.”
Outreach times and locations
- Monday — The Dream Center in Middletown — 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Tuesday — The New Life Mission in Hamilton — 9 a.m. to noon
- Wednesday — Oxford Family Resource Center — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Thursday — New Life Mission in Hamilton –— 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Friday — Zion Lutheran Church in Hamilton — 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.