A cold-weather shelter for Cincinnatians experiencing homelessness opened its doors yesterday — after bitter cold weather had already rolled into the region.
The opening of the 10,000-square-foot Shetlerhouse cold weather shelter was delayed by renovation work updating its security systems and expanding bathroom facilities, its leaders say. The shelter also has to be careful about expenses in years when cold weather hits early like it has at times this autumn. Conserving money early means the shelter will have enough funds to stay open in the brutally cold days of February.
Groups have stepped in to fill the gap, but many advocates say more resources are needed.
On the last day of October this year, nonprofit Maslow's Army began running a "warming van" that allows those experiencing homelessness to get out of the cold. In November, the group received a second such van paid for by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune. On one frigid evening in November, Maslow's Army co-founder Sam Landis says the group picked up 62 people who otherwise would not have had shelter.
The vans pick up people from libraries, homeless camps and other spots and take them to churches, mosques and other locations offering shelter. People without a place to stay when the weather turned inclement were at times housed in the lobby of the Hamilton County Justice Center and given shelter in some Northern Kentucky libraries. But those have been stop-gaps until the winter shelter opened.
The Shelterhouse facility is especially vital because it has a very low barrier to entry. Other shelters restrict occupancy by gender, by history of drug use or based on other criteria. But as long as an individual doesn't pose a danger to other shelter inhabitants, they are able to enter Shelterhouse's winter shelter. The facility generally serves an additional 600-700 individuals during the winter months, Shelterhouse says.
The shelter at 411 Gest St. in Queensgate is open 7 p.m.-6 a.m. every day.