The first beds have been put in the gymnasium at the former Simon Kenton Elementary School, where homeless people will be able to go to get out of the weather and eventually get assistance in job searches, education and more.
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The building on West Second Street in Xenia is getting new life as the local nonprofit Bridges of Hope works to get supplies, volunteers and the funds needed to eventually open the doors as a shelter this winter.
The support from the community has been strong, said Dan Jordan, pastor at Xenia Grace Chapel and president of Bridges of Hope.
After replacing beds at the jail, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office donated about 100 mattresses, and Kettering Health Network has donated 800 blankets, Jordan said.
“The more people hear about this, they want to become involved,” Jordan said. “We’ve had some great people coming in and donating their time. Helping by doing some labor. Skilled people giving of themselves in electrical, plumbing, heating. It’s been a good response from our community here.”
The need for a shelter, particularly to accommodate single men and women, is needed in the area, Jordan said. According to Bridges of Hope, the poverty rate in Greene County is 15 percent and on any given night, nearly 100 people need shelter, 40 percent of those being children.
Work is underway to get the school’s old boiler to start working. Plumbing work is ongoing in the kitchen, where pipes have sprung leaks after years of not being used.
The old carpeting that served as the flooring throughout the school building has been ripped up. Various items, such as old desks and tables, that were being stored in the building have been cleared out.
The goal is to eventually provide programming to help people get back on their feet, said Tami Cernetic, Bridges of Hope administrative assistant.
“We want to open the temporary shelter this winter, but really our vision is to expand services,” Cernetic said. “Having a full-time shelter and then having different offices where we can actually help people so that … we’re moving them along on the road to freedom.”
This week being national Hunger and Homelessness Week, Bridges of Hope is using this week to ramp up fundraising efforts. The goal is raise $50,000 by the end of the week and donations of clothing, kitchen equipment and supplies are among the items that are currently needed.
There’s also a need for volunteers, said Tracy Chizever, a former teacher in Beavercreek schools who will work as the shelter manager.
“Once the doors open, we need volunteers,” Chizever said. “We need volunteers to help us make food. We need volunteers who would be willing to spend the night … I’m hoping people will adopt a day, like maybe once a month … We need you!”
To find out how you can help, visit the Bridges of Hope website or call (937) 867-4073.