The need for a dedicated men’s shelter in Delaware County has long been a concern of many community members, and that need may finally be met in the coming months. A group effort by the St. Vincent DePaul Society Conferences of St. Mary Church in Delaware and St. John Neumann Church in Sunbury has laid the groundwork for a shelter to possibly be functional within the next year.
St. Vincent DePaul Society is an international Catholic voluntary organization committed to personal service to the poor. Elizabeth Curtis, who is chairing the effort, said the idea for a men’s shelter began during conferences for the society at both churches.
Each church has a helpline and receives donations from parishioners that assist those who call the helpline with needs such as rent, utilities or food money. In addition to the helplines, the St. John Neumann group also has a Delaware County Jail ministry where it works with men at the jail.
Curtis said that in working with those at the jail, they found that many have nowhere to go when they are released. In fact, 60% of the men interviewed as part of the jail ministry said they have no place to return to after release, she said, making the need for a dedicated shelter in Delaware very apparent.
“We’re committed at St. Vincent DePaul to helping them get over that hump when they’re between jobs, or something happens to them such as getting sick, and they can’t meet their rent or are short and don’t have enough money for food,” said Curtis. “We also are committed to what we’ve termed ‘systemic change.’ We don’t want people to be in this cycle of poverty where they are coming to us periodically, repetitively … What can we do to help them make changes in their lives so they aren’t in that cycle?”
Curtis told the story of a particular man who, with the help of the jail ministry of St. John Neumann, was taken to the St. Vincent Haven transitional shelter in Newark, Ohio. After staying there for approximately three months, the man was able to get in touch with his family and went home to live with them. It was at that point that they began to understand that a shelter could serve as a stepping stone of sorts to allow these men to take back their own lives.
However, relying on the Newark facility wasn’t feasible, Curtis said, pointing out that many don’t have transportation and most simply refuse to leave Delaware. With only 26 beds at Haven, there often isn’t room either. Thus, the need for a shelter in Delaware only heightened.
“We want to open a men’s shelter to aid men after release from jail, prison, or treatment facilities by providing emergency shelter, food and guidance,” Curtis said. “We want to be like mentors, to help them on their path to leading a self-sustaining life. They’re going to have discharge assessments, so to speak, if they’re leaving a treatment facility or incarceration. They’ve already been in programs trying to help them with their rehabilitation, so we would just pick up and continue that work so we have a starting point to develop a plan for them.”
The goal of the men’s shelter extends far beyond providing a place for the men to sleep. Curtis said the needs they want to identify might include developing job skills, financial management skills, identifying places to live, making sure they can meet with parole officers as scheduled, treatments, computer access, assistance with job applications, interview skills development, and much more.
“We want to create opportunities for transition and achievement for these guys,” Curtis said. “It’s more than a house. It’s a safe place for these guys to transition back into society … It’s not designed that they’re going to stay there indefinitely. Maybe they’re only there a couple of days, maybe they are there three or four months. The goal is that we are actively working with them, they are participating…”
Curtis said there are no set plans for a location as of now. Currently, the group is simply trying to raise awareness of the need in Delaware and to raise money for a building. She estimated they would need $350,000 to build a new facility, and there is also the option of getting a house and renovating it, similar to what Family Promise of Delaware has done.
Whatever the case may be, Curtis said she envisions the shelter being within the city limits, close to transit routes, and in relatively close proximity to the courthouse. Her hope, Curtis said, is for the shelter to be available within the next year to 18 months depending on the fundraising success.
To learn more about the Men’s Shelter of Delaware County initiative, visit www.mensshelterdelco.org or call 740-833-6057. Donations can be made on the website, or checks can be sent to Delaware County Men’s Shelter, c/o St. Vincent de Paul at St. Mary’s Church, Delaware, Ohio, 43015.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.