“A Place of Warmth” shelter at Zion United Church of Christ, 51 W. Central Ave., is now being used by homeless single men in Delaware.
“We’ve had a guest every night so far, two gentlemen that have been guests,” said church pastor Jon Peterson. “We think there will be an increase. It takes a while for word of mouth to get around.”
In partnership with United Way of Delaware County and other community groups, A Place of Warmth came about last year when there was concern about homeless men staying outside overnight during brutally cold temperatures. There is an estimated dozen men who are homeless in the city.
On Sunday night, the church was also asked to take in people from Genoa Township who may have been without electrical power, but no one came.
When the temperature dips below 20 degrees, notices will be posted about the warming center where it is believed homeless men can see them. The men can register from 8 to 10 p.m. at Zion, which will be staffed by a special-duty police officer and a volunteer. Up to a dozen men can get a warm place to sleep, a breakfast sandwich and possibly special treats donated to the center.
“We had a wonderful thing happen (Monday morning) — a member of the church woke up early and baked some fresh biscuits and brought them down,” Peterson said.
He is also looking to provide vouchers for sandwiches from local eateries and DATA monthly bus passes.
“We’re growing into it, and hopefully we’ll be able to provide a valuable service.”
Peterson said he’s spoken to the two men who, like him, are Hayes High School graduates.
“I can’t speak for the men, but I can read body language,” he said. “The man who stayed with us (Sunday) night said, ‘This is the first time I’ve been able to wash my hair and take a sink bath for well over a week,’ and he was grinning like a Cheshire cat.”
The Delaware County Foundation has awarded a supplemental emergency shelter grant to HelpLine of Delaware and Morrow Counties Inc. for women and families seeking warmth. HelpLine is non-profit organization whose programs include Connections Delaware County Volunteer Center that provides staffing for A Place of Warmth.
“In the severe cold weather we are currently experiencing, existing resources for women and families needing shelter can become overwhelmed,” said Susan Hanson, executive director of HelpLine, in a prepared statement. “Now we have added capacity to further ensure people have a safe, warm place to sleep at night.”
“What is happening in Delaware to assist men, women and families this winter is a good example of the community coming together in many ways to help those in need of shelter,” said Marlene Casini, president of the foundation. “We appreciate HelpLine’s leadership in taking care of this vulnerable segment of our community.”
For more information, contact HelpLine at [email protected] or 740-369-3316.