YMCA of Central Ohio

New homeless shelter to provide desperately needed help

Plans for a $5.9 million homeless shelter come with a promise that the Community Shelter Board hasn’t made in recent years: Officials vow to do away with waiting lists, and they say no one seeking refuge from the streets will be turned away.

“No human being should go unsheltered if they need shelter,” Executive Director Michelle Heritage said. “We’re ready to make that commitment.”

The board said yesterday that it has purchased a 62,000-square-foot building on 5 acres at 595 Van Buren Dr. in the West Edge Business Center, west of Downtown.

The site, formerly Columbus Paper Box, is to open next spring as a shelter for homeless men, women and families.

Shelter officials say the system needs a new, permanent shelter to handle the increase in homelessness. The building also is at the center of the board’s plans to revamp its operations for homeless adults and improve case management so that people don’t become homeless again.

“About 40 percent of women and 60 percent of men return to shelter,” Heritage said. “The average number is 3.4 times.”

She said the new shelter will serve as an intake point for newly homeless adults, be the new home for Rebecca’s Place women’s shelter, create space for extra beds during severe weather and make room to put up parents and children when the YWCA Family Center is over capacity.

Rebecca’s Place “served women from a dilapidated, crumbling facility that outlived its space years ago,” said Antonio Caffey of Southeast Inc., which manages the 47-bed women’s shelter on the East Side. The new site will afford clients more dignity and a safer environment, he said.

Kristen Daam, a case manager at Rebecca’s Place, said women have sometimes waited two weeks to get a shelter bed. “That’s too long to be out in the elements,” she said.

The board said it paid $2.3 million for the building. About $1 million comes from money that the city of Columbus previously gave the shelter board, and $1.3 million is through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

Rehabilitation of the site is expected to cost about $3.6 million, with $1.7 million to come from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and $1.9 million through private fundraising.

“The agency has made more dollars available for homeless initiatives as we realize what a serious issue it is in the state of Ohio,” said Arlyne Alston, a spokeswoman for the finance agency.

The shelter board no longer has a lease on a building in Franklin Township that housed its overflow beds last winter. The location, next to a children’s day-care center, triggered controversy and a lawsuit. Shelter Board spokeswoman Sara Loken said any overflow this winter will need to be handled at existing shelters.

The YMCA of Central Ohio, YWCA Columbus and Southeast Inc. are to operate the new shelter. When complete, it will have 67 beds for women, 45 for men, room to add up to 138 overflow beds for single adults as needed, and 20 overflow beds for families with children.

Community meetings to discuss the plan are to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and next Thursday at LifeCare Alliance, 670 Harmon Ave.

Link to Article

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/10/09/Plans-for-new-homeless-shelter-revealed.html