Butler County shelters see increase in clients despite mild winter

In this 2016 file photo, residents eat lunch at the Chosen homeless shelter at Serve City in Hamilton. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
In this 2016 file photo, residents eat lunch at the Chosen homeless shelter at Serve City in Hamilton. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Middletown homeless program sees 31 percent increase in clients.

Several Butler County homeless shelters said the need for their services increased this winter despite the mild temperatures and a Middletown church-based shelter saw a record number of clients, coordinators said.

Serving Homeless Alternative Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM) housed 117 homeless people during its 15-week run, a 31 percent increase over last year’s record of 89 people, said Bill Fugate, one of the coordinators. Of those, 38 were female, about double what SHALOM typically serves, he said.

MORE: Middletown homeless shelter planning to move out of downtown

The homeless shelter completed its 15th year on Sunday. The program began the Sunday after Thanksgiving and was held for 15 weeks and supported by 11 local churches. The homeless were picked up every day at SHALOM’s headquarters at First United Methodist Church, 120 S. Broad St., then transported to the host church where they were fed dinner and breakfast before returning to the downtown church the next morning.

Fugate said there were “a lot of reasons” for the spike in homelessness, including a weak economy, lack of a high school diploma and drug addictions.

“Bad choices,” he said. “It’s all about choices.”

Linda Kimble, executive director of Serve City/Chosen, a Hamilton homeless shelter and food pantry, pointed to the same obstacles as hurdles for the homeless. She said many homeless are “hard to employ” because they lack at least a GED or made poor decisions that led to legal issues.

Kimble said because of this winter’s “weird weather” — 60 degrees one day, 30 degrees the next — it was difficult to predict the daily need for homeless services. Still, she said, the center averaged serving about 45 men and women daily.

MORE: Homeless rates down across Ohio, up in Butler County

SHALOM, Fugate said, also is the only local area homeless shelter that doesn’t drug test its clients. He said representatives of the host churches discussed the possibility of implementing a drug testing procedure this year because of the heroin epidemic but decided to “serve them as they are.”

He described the drug issue “a small problem” at SHALOM.

SHALOM served diverse clients this year with ages ranging from 1 month to 74 years old.

Bobby Grove III, executive director at the Haven House Emergency Shelter in Hamilton, said the face of homelessness has changed drastically in the past 15 years. He said 60 percent of the homeless in the county used to be men struggling with alcohol addictions. Now, he said, 70 percent of the homeless in the county are children.

“It’s not the person on the park bench or under the bridge,” he said.

MORE: Hamilton homeless shelter gets help from electrical union

Grove III said Haven House averaged about 40 residents a day.

“Extremely busy” is how he described the shelter.

Heroin, he said, is “crushing families” and creating a higher need for homeless services. He said the drug is costing people their jobs and ripping families apart.

“When you have no trust,” he said, “you have people who become homeless.”

The coordinators are already preparing for next season. Fugate said SHALOM is seeking additional churches that are willing to host the homeless for one week. For more information, call 513-423-7821 or go to www.shalomhomeless.com.

Explore Download the free Journal-News app, Butler County’s #1 source for local news

About the Author