Mindy Muller, chairwoman of the Butler County Housing and Homeless Coalition, said the board met this week to discuss plans to move forward without SHALOM’s services and another meeting with homeless service providers will be held Sept. 18.
“This is not a Middletown problem,” she said of homelessness. “It’s a county problem.”
Since SHALOM won’t open, she said, Butler County leaders must make contingency plans to provide the “critical services” to the homeless during the winter.
“We have to fill the gaps,” she said. “How do we pull together across all agencies?”
Tim Williams, director of operations at Hope House, a Middletown homeless shelter, said SHALOM did a “great job of providing love and care” to the homeless.
“You can’t replace that,” Williams said. “This creates a challenge for the community.”
In Hamilton, Bobby Grove, executive director of Haven House, expects to see “an uptick" in homeless looking for shelter after SHALOM closed.
“This will be pretty rough on everybody," he said. “This puts pressure on all of us.”
Grove said those at Haven House and SHALOM worked closely together. When the homeless left SHALOM and they needed more permanent housing, they landed at Haven House, he said.
Kathy Becker, director of law enforcement and criminal justice for Access Counseling, said homelessness in the region “is not going away” and she’s concerned the impact SHALOM may have on shelters and public safety services.
“We need creative solutions,” she said.
Muller said the coalition will seek COVID-19 funding to assist the homeless, but the long-term solution is “decent, safe and sanitary” housing. Because tenants aren’t being evicted due to the coronavirus that’s limiting the amount of affordable housing, she said.
Muller said advocates expected to see a spike in COVID-19 cases in homeless shelters because of the congregate setting. But that hasn’t been true, she said.
“The biggest eye opener,” Muller said.
Instead, the highest hurdle has been adequate housing.
Shelters also are dealing with a reduced number of available beds for their residents. In Middletown, Hope House, which opened a $11.4 million shelter this year, saw its occupancy drop from 50 to 25 beds, Williams said.
Each resident is tested for COVID-19 before they’re registered and so far three have tested positive, he said. Those residents were quarantined until they test negative, he said.
Hope House’s men’s facility, 1001 Grove St., includes a 50-bed emergency shelter, administrative offices, additional counseling and case management offices, meeting spaces, a chapel, a recreation room, a dining room with a commercial kitchen, a private intake office, and a health counseling room for nurses and visiting doctors.
The facility also includes 30 one-bedroom permanent supportive housing apartments designed to help the chronically homeless, Williams said. He said the apartments include counseling and case management offices.
Timothy Conklin, a homeless Marine veteran, sits on a thin mat that will become one of the family member's bed as he talks with his son Cody inside the SHALOM (Serving Homeless with Alternate Lodging Of Middletown) shelter at the First Presbyterian Church in Middletown. The shelter won't open this season due to coronavirus concerns. FILE PHOTO
Credit: MIDDLETOWN JOURNAL
Credit: MIDDLETOWN JOURNAL
BUTLER COUNTY HOMELESS SHELTERS/PROGRAMS
Address: 550 High St., Hamilton
Phone number: 513-863-8866
HOPE HOUSE MISSION
Address: 1001 Grove St., Middletown
Phone number: 513-424-4673
Address: 622 East Ave., Hamilton
Phone number: 513-737-8900