‘Toxic relationship’ divides Butler County homeless agencies

A Middletown church-based homeless shelter has “disassociated” itself from the city’s homeless shelter and Access Counseling because of a “toxic relationship.”

Bill Fugate, volunteer director of Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown, said Hope House and Access Counseling “do not have the same desire to serve Christ and the homeless” as SHALOM.

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Fugate wrote in an email to SHALOM leadership that Hope House informed him it’s no longer a homeless shelter and it’s strictly “a rehabilitation program.”

But Tim Williams, executive director of operations at Hope House, told the Journal-News the shelter accepts the homeless during its intake from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and wants to offer its residents “more than a bed and meals.”

The goal of Hope House, Williams said, is to connect the homeless with Access Counseling and JobsPlus and to get them “back on their feet and help transform their lives.”

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Earlier this year, Hope House held a ground-breaking outside a vacant building where its men’s emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing apartments will be operational by the end of 2019.

The new Hope House will offer 50 beds, 10 more than it has at its current facility on South Main Street. 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.

By December 2019, the homeless shelter operations will move from 34 S. Main St. — a 150-year-old building — to the new facility at 1001 Grove St. 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.

Williams said SHALOM does “great work” in the community and he hopes to meet with Fugate to discuss their differences.

Hope House continues to refer homeless individuals to SHALOM for services and financial assistance, Fugate contends. He wrote SHALOM no longer will give Hope House residents money.

When asked to describe the relationship between SHALOM and Hope House, Fugate said: “It’s one way.”

Then he added: “Give and take. We give and they take.”

Fugate said SHALOM continues to serve more guests every winter, an increase he blamed on Hope House’s refusal to serve as a homeless shelter.

“I would not be making this decision if I did not feel strongly that the leadership of these organizations are not serving Christ but have become financially driven operations,” he wrote.

Access Counseling serves as the counseling agency within Hope House/City Gospel and is overseen by the brother of Tim Williams, Fugate wrote.

“I see this relationship as a real conflict of interest,” Fugate wrote.

Williams said he doesn’t understand Fugate’s concerns.

Fugate said representatives from Access Counseling will not be welcome at SHALOM or any of its host churches for the purpose of counseling.

“This was not an easy decision and one that I take lightly,” Fugate wrote. “I know that it will not be well received by everyone. These agencies truly were not supportive of our efforts to serve the most needy and helpless in our community. They have made the decision to serve fewer individuals than they ever have in the past and have become truly money driven and directed.”

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