Middletown homeless issue: What city officials are planning this year

Middletown officials believe the city should be looking for more ways to serve the homeless population.

Those discussions were happening even before the Monday grand opening of the new Hope House facility on Grove Street that offers beds, apartments and services for men.

“(The) best thing we can do as a community is to look for ways to serve this vulnerable population, so that together we all can thrive and have the best chance to be successful,” Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan said during Monday’s event. “We are not looking to draw more homeless into the community, but we want to serve those who live here and call Middletown home.”

The homeless issue was brought to light last year by some residents and business owners in the downtown area.

Homeless issue, raised in Hamilton and Middletown last year, rises in Ohio

Last month, a federal Point in Time Count of the homeless outside shelters found there was a 10 percent increase in Butler County this year, according to the Butler County Homeless Coalition.

Acting City Manager Susan Cohen said Middletown was not part of the 2019 count due to staffing issues. She said the count identified six people in Middletown, four in West Chester Twp., 13 in New Miami, 19 at SHALOM (Serving the Homeless with Alternate Lodging of Middletown), and 28 in Hamilton, who were not in shelters that night.

MORE: Advocates: Homelessness ‘not new problem’ for Middletown

Cohen said the city needs to continue its longtime partnership with the Butler County Homeless Coalition and continue discussions about helping the homeless, including in the awarding of grant funds.

In January, the Butler County Commission received requests for $5.1 million in HUD funding for 39 projects to benefit low- and moderate-income residents and multiple projects were for supportive housing.

Councilwoman Ami Vitori said she met with Commissioner Cindy Carpenter about a request for proposals for a county homeless crisis center. However, no location has been identified yet, Vitori said. She also believes the number of homeless may be larger that what officials think or was reported.

“I think all of it is in a creation phase,” Vitori said. “We’re in a phase of getting people to become involved in becoming a part of the organization.”

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Vitori said Middletown needs to work with Hamilton and Access Counseling to find a place between both communities for a day or engagement center for the homeless.

Middletown police Chief David Birk said the city was contacted by Access Counseling seeking support for an engagement center that would be open during the day, seven days a week. Birk said he was not sure if Middletown was the best location for such a place and wanted to see a final proposal to review before moving forward.

Birk said an engagement center would provide basic amenities, treatment, classes for life skills and support and self-help groups.

Brandy Slavens of Access Counseling told council last month that the organization had met with the Mental Health Board for funding but was told to come back with larger proposal. As of Tuesday, Slavens said the proposal is “on hiatus” for now and declined to comment further on the proposal.

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Downtown business owners last fall complained that law enforcement agencies from other communities were dropping homeless people off in downtown Middletown because of the support services established in the city. City officials said they would be in contact with those communities who have been identified by local business owners.

In the past few weeks, the city has requested local homeless shelters to refrain from dropping the homeless at the Middletown Bus Terminal each morning and moving the drop-off at the Police Circle in from the Middletown police station.

Vitori said the city is working to develop legislation prohibiting hospitals from discharging people without a plan for where they are going. She said the hospital legislation could come in March.

The city is also looking at adding more security cameras downtown as part of the Smart Cities program.

“There are just a lot of moving pieces right now,” she said. “Working regionally takes longer but it’s the smart thing to do.”

Existing Resources in Butler County for the homeless

  • City of Hamilton: Municipality, community planning and funding support for homeless services, law enforcement.
  • City of Middletown: Municipality, community planning and funding support for homeless services, law enforcement.
  • Butler County: Community planning, Permanent Supportive Housing (shelter and care), administration, law enforcement.
  • Butler Metropolitan Housing Authority: Public housing, housing choice vouchers.
  • Community Development Professionals: Permanent Supportive Housing (Shelter Plus Care).
  • Butler Behavioral Health: Mental health; case management; housing.
  • Community Behavioral Health: Mental health; case management; housing
  • Sojourner Recovery Services: Substance abuse treatment – inpatient; outpatient.
  • Genesis Substance: abuse treatment – inpatient; outpatient.
  • Hope House Rescue Mission: Emergency shelter.
  • Serve City: Emergency shelter.
  • YWCA: Transitional shelter for women.
  • Veterans Affairs: A VA services and referral.
  • Veterans Services Commission: VA services and referral.
  • Butler County Success: Homeless liaison for schools.
  • Oxford Family Resource Center: Emergency housing and referrals.
  • The Dream Project: Developing new transitional housing.
  • SHALOM: Emergency shelter during winter months.
  • Family Promise Emergency: shelter for families.
  • Access Counseling Services Outreach: Mental health: case management, housing, therapy.
  • Emergency Money Fund: One-time financial assistance to prevent/end homelessness.
  • Women Helping Women: Domestic violence, crisis intervention.
  • Freedom House: Faith community, supportive services.
  • Lighthouse Church: Faith community, supportive services.
  • SHALOM: Seasonal emergency shelter, supportive services.
  • Warren Metropolitan Housing Authority: Homelessness Crisis Response Programs funding.

SOURCE: City of Middletown

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