Middletown leader to conduct community meeting about homelessness and impact on businesses

Credit: Submitted photo

Credit: Submitted photo

Rodney Muterspaw understands first-hand the frustrations Middletown businesses are feeling while dealing with the city’s homeless population.

After going through a fast-food drive-through, Muterspaw, a first-year Middletown City Council member and former Middletown police chief, said he was approached by a homeless man seeking money. Muterspaw gave him 50 cents and asked where he was from.

The man said he came to Middletown from Trotwood, located near Dayton, and when he was turned away from a homeless shelter, he returned to the streets.

“We can’t ignore people,” Muterspaw said.

But he also understands the city can’t ignore the impact the growing homeless population is having on local businesses.

So Muterspaw is asking local agencies, church representatives and business owners to attend an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 11 in the Middletown Division of Police training room in the basement of the City Building. The meeting will be moved to City Council Chambers if the training room isn’t large enough, he said.

He wants those who deal with the homeless to discuss the best practices. It’s time for Middletown residents to know the city is trying to address the problem.

“Small business is everything and we have to act,” he said. “There has been too much talk. Business owners are fed up. This problem isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse. We need a better balance between being generous and making sure people aren’t afraid.”

Middletown police Chief David Birk has said there are about 200 unhoused people living in the city, either in homeless shelters, homeless camps or on the streets. Birk estimates about 50% of the homeless aren’t from Middletown.

Muterspaw, who served on the police force for 30 years, including five as police chief, has talked to officers from other police agencies about why they bring homeless to Middletown. The city has an abundant amount of homeless resources, Muterspaw has been told.

ExploreCity taking over coordinating housing homeless this winter, church-based group steps aside

City leaders said they plan to coordinate an effort to house the homeless at local churches through the winter months. City Manager Paul Lolli has said Jeri Lewis, the city’s intern special projects coordinator, will work with community churches and other organizations to formulate a plan for a warming center.

Lolli has said six local churches have committed to serve as warming centers and 10 other churches have offered support by providing meals and volunteers. He called the response “very positive.”

Leaders of Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), which operated without government assistance since 2002, have said it won’t open this year due to the city’s plan.

SHALOM volunteers will continue serving the unhoused breakfast from 8:30-9:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at First United Methodist Church, according to Bill Fugate, a volunteer coordinator.

Last year, the city funded a warming center that closed after two months.

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