While homelessness declines throughout the country, Butler County agencies said they expect the number of residents needing their services to increase as cold weather arrives.
Ohio’s homeless population decreased by 3 percent in 2017, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But those who operate the five Butler County homeless agencies are reporting being near or at capacity in the days leading up to this weekend’s predicted snowfall and cold spell.
Later this month, Butler County planning agencies called “Continuums of Care” and volunteers will seek to identify the number of individuals and families living in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and in unsheltered settings.
Serve City and Haven House in Hamilton and Hope House Center for Men and Hope House Center for Women and Children and Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM) in Middletown are already experiencing high volumes of clients for their 250 available beds.
Linda Kimble, executive director of Serve City, 622 East Ave., said the 52 beds in the emergency shelter and 73 apartment beds are full. There are 40 men and 12 women staying in the emergency shelter.
“Very busy” is how Kimble described the homeless shelter.
Kimble said 15 homeless people who were living in the woods or down by the Great Miami River checked into Serve City this week.
“It’s just too cold to be outside,” she said.
The 80 beds at Hope House’s men’s and women’s shelter in Middletown are near capacity, said Tim Williams, executive director of operations.
“Filling up fast,” he said.
Once inside Hope House, the homeless are provided the essentials — shelter, clothing and food — but the goal is to equip them with services like counseling and job preparation to get them employed and off the streets, Williams said.
By this time next year, Hope House plans to be moved from 34 S. Main St. into its new, $11.2 million facility at 1001 Grove St. that will provide additional 10 beds, 30 one-bedroom apartments, administrative and counseling offices, a chapel, recreation room, dining room and health provider rooms for visiting nurses and doctors.
The building is being demolished this week, and Williams said construction will start soon and hopefully be complete by the end of the year. He believes the new center will provide “hope” for the homeless.
“Right now, in this very old building, they say, ‘This is all I deserve, a broken down building,’” Williams said.
Bill Fugate, volunteer director of SHALOM, a seasonal, church-based shelter in its 17th year, said 24 clients stayed Wednesday night at Holy Family.
In the first 46 days of operation this season, SHALOM has served 74 guests, including 44 men, 29 women and one child, Fugate said. Last year, the agency served 119 guests, a record.
Surprisingly, Fugate said, the severe weather is “not a factor” in the number of homeless at SHALOM. Instead, he said, bigger determining factors are jobs and the economy.
Haven House in Hamilton remains “very busy,” said Bobby Grove, executive director.
“It never goes away,” he said.
That’s because of the demographics of those who stay at Haven, he said. Typically, he said, they’re not living under bridges or tent cities, but they’re victims of domestic violence, going through divorce, involved with Butler County Children Services or being kicked out by their parents or grandparents.
So weather doesn’t “sway” the numbers at Haven, he said.