There are 250 beds for those who are homeless in Butler County, and directors are concerned about the increased number of people seeking shelter this winter.
While the economy is “strong,” they said drug and alcohol addictions, lack of dependable transportation and untreated mental illnesses hamper homeless from finding employment.
Bill Fugate, volunteer director of Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), a seasonal, church-based shelter in its 17th year, spends an extensive amount of time driving around the city looking for those who need assistance. He sees more “new faces” on the street that he assumes are homeless. He said SHALOM is receiving more requests for its services enough before it opens Sunday, Nov. 25.
“It’s going to be a tough year,” he predicted.
There are two other homeless shelters in Middletown — Hope House Center for Men and Hope House Center for Women and Children. Each center has 40 beds, said Tim Williams, executive director of operations at Hope House.
Williams said by the end of next year Hope House Mission men’s emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing apartments will be operational in its new facility at 1001 Grove St.
The new Hope House will offer 50 beds, 10 more than it has at its current facility at 34 S. Main St. There also will be 30 one-bedroom apartments, administrative and counseling offices, a chapel, recreation room, dining room and health provider rooms for visiting nurses and doctors.
The estimated cost of the new homeless shelter is $11.2 million, and executives said $9 million has been secured though state grants and donations.
Regardless of the new and improved facility, Williams said those at Hope House must address the “root issues” that cause homelessness, including addictions and mental health challenges. Those who stay at Hope House are encouraged to attend classes and enroll in programs, what Williams called “the counseling and tools they need.”
At some point, Williams said, those who are homeless must say: “I want my life back. I want more than a temporary bed and a hot meal.”
The holidays can be difficult for the homeless, he said.
“It’s a time when they realize what they don’t have,” Williams said. “It’s a huge reminder. They ask, ‘What have I done? What have I lost?’”
In Hamilton, Bobby Grove, executive director of Haven House, said the shelter has already “been slammed” in the weeks leading up to winter. While he wasn’t “100 percent sure” of the reason, he pointed toward drug activities, young divorced mothers with children and adults being kicked out of their parents’ house.
Grove said Haven House has 92 beds, but every bed is rarely used because some rooms have four beds and families may only need two beds.
“We make space available if we can,” Grove said. “We never turn people away.”
When Hamilton closed “tent city,” on Dixie Highway, it made it more “challenging” for the homeless and those who serve the homeless, said Linda Kimble, executive director of Serve City, 622 East Ave. Some of the homeless who lived there, she said, refuse to follow rules so they can’t stay in shelters.
“It’s all about choices,” she said. “Some people make bad choices.”
This fall, the city set a deadline, pushed by private property owners who had as many as 10 tents on the land behind Hamilton Plaza. When the deadline was up, police began issuing citations. Property owners wanted people living on the land gone, and police enforced the law, but with compassion, according to the police chief.
From Sept. 30 to Oct. 10, officers issued 16 criminal trespass citations at the property or surrounding private properties, according to Hamilton Municipal Court records.
Kimble called homelessness “not a new problem” and said it will continue to drain services as long as there are addictions.
Daily intakes are performed from 4 to 5 p.m. every afternoon of the hosting season at SHALOM’s office in the lower level of the First United Methodist Church, 120 S. Broad St.
A van transports the guests every day to the host church where the guests are served dinner and breakfast. At about 8 a.m. the guests are transported back downtown.