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What this local church is building to help innocent victims of the opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic has impacted communities across the state and the nation in such a way that many safety nets are being stretched to their limits.

One church in Madison Twp., Calvary Tabernacle, is developing the City of Refuge Mission at its church located at 5990 Michael Road to help some of the more vulnerable casualties of this epidemic who are hurting as a result of others who are involved in the drug culture.

“This has affected us as a church,” said Pastor John Rice.

MORE: So many opioid epidemic stories are devastating. These are stories of hope.

Rice said his church saw a need to develop temporary accommodations for those who are displaced following the sudden death of a family member or feel endangered in their current living arrangements. He said it will also provide long-term housing and care for abandoned children.

The congregation is building 14 motel-style units as temporary housing on the lower level of its 30,000-square-foot church building and inside an adjacent building that contains a gym at the 15-acre campus located west of Middletown. The lower level had been used in the past for annual overnight summer church camps.

“We want it to have a family atmosphere,” Rice said. “We know a lot of kids (staying here) will be temporary and we want to reunite families.”

MORE: The overdose epidemic comes at a massive cost. In Middletown, it’s millions.

In addition to the 14 rooms that will be furnished and provide some privacy for the families using them, there are showers, restrooms, a dining area and a large commercial kitchen to cook meals. The facility will also provide services to help to find a long term housing solution for the families as well as provide assistance in looking for work. The church is also planning to use its van to get people to a job interview or for a doctor’s visit.

Plans also include providing counseling services to assist those in the recovery process as well as five nurses to provide health checks and physician referrals. Other services such as a daycare, clothing bank and a weekly food pantry are also being developed.

Rice said they are looking at taking in larger families with several siblings who could stay at their facility for a month or so.

MORE: The Middletown community talked honestly last night about the human costs of the opioid epidemic

The facility is being developed piece by piece and is not open yet, but the church hopes to partner with other social service agencies and churches. Rice said the church is applying for a state license to operate a home for children.

“Children are where our heart is,” said Youth Minister Rob Merrill. ” All of us know a scenario of a child who has been impacted due to opioids.”

Rice said church volunteers will help operate the facility to provide care and support to those who stay there.

MORE: Is the overdose epidemic on the cusp of improving? Middletown is seeing positive signs

“Our people are very giving,” Rice said.

Merrill said the church has had a massive response from the community outside of the congregation who want to help those less fortunate through various donations and used clothing.

Rice said he envisions developing a local network of churches and organizations to help provide assistance to those impacted by opioid epidemic and added they are considering an offsite location with a couple of units to transition families for a month or two.

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