YMCA of Central Ohio

Overflow shelter for homeless opens

By  Rita Price  and  Dean Narciso
Monday January 7, 2013 10:38 PM
A winter shelter for homeless men and women finally opened tonight in its controversial Franklin Township location next to a day-care center.

About 15 women spent the night in the building at 511 Industrial Mile Rd., which used to be a church and before that a fitness club.

Shelter officials say they’ve worked hard to arrange for shuttle services, more-frequent COTA runs, special-duty township police patrols, national-level background checks for clients, and other measures aimed at keeping the neighborhood safe.

“I think the concerns that were brought up by the community have been addressed and will continue to be monitored,” said Franklin Township Trustee Tim Guyton.

The first clients arrived about 7:30 tonight and were checked for weapons with an electronic security wand before being directed to the large room of beds, freshly painted walls, coffee and a flat-screen television. Lights were turned out at 10 p.m.

Guyton said the YMCA of Central Ohio, which operates the shelter through an agreement with the Community Shelter Board, will keep up its public meetings with area residents and business owners to discuss any problems.

“If issues should arise, that’s where they can be brought up and, hopefully, where they can be addressed,” Guyton said.

The opening of the 190-bed winter overflow shelter had been delayed for nearly two months amid legal, zoning, building- and fire-code battles.

Creative Child Care Inc. lost its requests last month for a restraining order and injunction to halt the opening, but it still has a lawsuit pending. A tall chain-link fence has been installed between the properties.

Michelle Heritage, the executive director of the Community Shelter Board, said the community negotiations haven’t made everyone happy. But the winter weather and crowded conditions at existing shelters were creating a critical situation.

New brass sprinkler heads shone from the ceiling’s plumbing tonight, in compliance with fire-code demands. And those needing extra bedding were furnished with new fleece blankets.

“It’s great. I’d give it a 10,” said Stacey Brown, 38, who arrived alone in Columbus on Dec. 21 after being unable to find work in Jacksonville, Fla. She’s been seeking warehouse work since.

Another woman staying at the shelter tonight was Anita Taylor, of Lubbock, Texas, who has been in Columbus for two months to visit her ill father at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

“It’s just a warm, clean place,” she said of the shelter. “It’s just a blessing. But there’s a lot of people still out there on the street.”

Heritage said occupancy, which tops out at 130 beds for men and 60 for women, probably will ramp up in the coming days.

Shelter residents are to arrive between 7 and 8 p.m., after the day care’s 6 p.m. closing. They will begin leaving around 5 a.m. and should be out by 6 a.m., when the day care opens. The shelter is not open during the day.

Homeless adults are supposed to call a central access number to request a shelter bed. They are given day passes for the Central Ohio Transit Authority and can use nearby bus stops to meet the shelter shuttle.

Heritage said the evening shuttle pickup site is the COTA stop at W. Broad Street and Wilson Road. In the mornings, when shelter residents leave, the shuttle is available to take the men and women to any of three COTA stops: at Industrial Mile and Georgesville Road.; at W. Broad Street and Viotis Drive; or at W. Broad and Wilson.

“We worked with COTA to say, ‘What are reasonable stops that buses could run often?’ " Heritage said.

She said six churches throughout the city have agreed to serve as “warming stations” for the homeless during the day, sometimes serving meals. Heritage said that shelter residents aren’t expected to remain in the area during the day.

“Our experience in the past has been that people do not stay and hang around the overflow shelter,” Heritage said. “They go lots of different places. They go to work, to friends’ houses. They are citizens.”

Taylor, who has construction experience in Texas, said she will remain in town “if I can find work.”

And as for those who object to the shelter’s location, she said: “They don’t know what they’r e talking about until they’ve walked in my shoes. It may be their turn tomorrow.”



Link to Article