Xenia nonprofit to open day shelter with county ARPA funds

Workers clear out materials below a stripped-out ceiling with a skylight, showing the inner workings of what's going into the construction project.

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Homeless shelter Bridges of Hope has already started on renovations in the wake of its awarded ARPA money from Greene County. CONTRIBUTED

Bridges of Hope is expanding its life skills, finance, housing and other help for homeless residents

XENIA — Since receiving a chunk of ARPA funding from the county, Xenia nonprofit Bridges of Hope has already begun construction on the next phase of its ministry.

Bridges of Hope was awarded $374,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the Greene County commission, which will go towards expanding the homeless shelter’s daytime operations, constructing a commercial kitchen, and hiring new staff.

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Located in the former Simon Kenton elementary school, Bridges of Hope’s current nighttime shelter is in the old gymnasium, open seven days a week from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Since then, substantial donations in addition to ARPA funding, including a $100,000 grant from the Kingsbury Foundation, have allowed the faith-based nonprofit to start a limited Day Hub program three times a week from 8 a.m. to noon.

Simply being open during the day is already making a huge difference. In the last two months, five people have gotten housing as a direct result from the Day Hub, shelter director Jill Conkel said.

“We see a higher turnover now of people getting housing, going to treatment,” Conkel said. “We have people that are getting surgeries for (ailments) that were keeping them from working.”

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Day Hub programming currently takes place inside the nighttime shelter. The renovated Day Hub Center, located in the central part of the school, will essentially double the size of the shelter, and include a central hub for case management, a computer lab and offices.

Part of Bridges’ case management work is helping those who are “overwhelmed” by the amount of social services an individual has to deal with, said Will Urschel, a city council member and president of Bridges of Hope’s board of directors.

“Everybody’s got their little niche. Our goal is to be the ‘omnibus man’ that’s going to help people walk through this,” he said.

The Day Hub will also facilitate classes in life skills, like finance and resume building, as well as things like art, painting or sewing. Offerings that move somebody’s life forward are important, Conkel said, but sometimes it’s just about getting the individual out of survival mode.

“It’s just getting the mind thinking again,” she said. “Getting the brain back to functioning. It’s saying, ‘I’m enjoying this, there are good things in life.’ There is more than just surviving.”

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Bridges also has partnered with local churches to do a Sunday service on a rotating basis, as well as conducting Bible study and other community-based activities. The faith-based components, and the hiring of a part-time director for that, will be funded by local churches, and not through public money, Urschel said.

“The faith community are good pools of folks that have wisdom. Many people we come in contact with have nobody that has any wisdom or stability in their current community group,” he said. “The ARPA money principally is going to provide the environment for the Day Hub and staffing.”

Bridges plans to open the renovated Day Hub section by June 1. Bridges has plans to be open as a 24/7 shelter by the end of 2023, and be self-sustaining by 2024.

“Everyone in the organization — the volunteers, the staff, the board — we’re all just really excited about where we’re at,” Urschel said.

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