City's winter shelter faces funding shortfall

Shelter can house up to 200 people during the city's coldest months when it has adequate funding, but that money has proven hard to come by this year.

click to enlarge The David and Rebecca Barron Center, where the city's winter shelter is housed
The David and Rebecca Barron Center, where the city's winter shelter is housed

A shelter meant to provide respite for Cincinnati’s most vulnerable during the city’s coldest months is facing a funding shortfall ahead of its mid-December opening date.

Nonprofit Shelterhouse operates the winter shelter at 411 Gest St. in Queensgate from December to February with help from Strategies to End Homelessness, the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless and the city of Cincinnati. It can house up to 200 people who don’t have any other place to stay — when it has adequate funding. This year, it has less than half what it needs and is facing a $65,000 shortfall. Officials say major disasters in other parts of the country have cut down on donations.

Strategies to End Homelessness oversees federal, state and local funding for nonprofits in Cincinnati including the Freestore Foodbank, Lighthouse, Bethany House, YWCA, Shelterhouse, Tender Mercies and others. The organization is asking Cincinnatians to help raise funds via its website so it can open the shelter before mid-December if possible.

“Normal winter weather can be deadly for people experiencing homelessness,” Strategies to End Homelessness CEO Kevin Finn said in a statement yesterday. “As a community, we need to make sure everyone has a place where they can come in from the cold.”

Social service agencies documented 7,168 people in Hamilton County experiencing homelessness last year, either sleeping in shelters, in their cars or on the streets. A quarter of those people were under the age of 18, and more than half were under the age of 35. Hamilton County has about 675 shelter beds available year-round to house those experiencing homelessness.

In addition to helping with emergency shelters, Strategies to End Homelessness oversees the city and county’s Homeless to Homes plan, in which local nonprofits provide comprehensive social services and help people transition into stable housing situations.

As it does that work, however, individuals experiencing homelessness still need immediate shelter from the increasingly-frigid Cincinnati weather.

“Our goal is allow everyone to have a warm place to sleep,” Finn says. “Simply put, winter shelter funding is the difference between people having that warm place or not. The more funding we have, the earlier the winter shelter could open its doors, the longer we can keep it open, and the more people we can bring in off the streets.”

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