New Homeless Shelter To Replace Rebecca’s Place, Will Also Serve Men & Families


UPDATED: Wednesday January 22, 2014 6:01 PM

On these cold winter nights, some people sleep outside because they have no homes. The Community Shelter Board says it has trouble finding shelter for everyone.  The problem is especially acute for women.

Just west of downtown, in a former box company, some men in hardhats smash walls to the ground, while others dig trenches for new plumbing.  This is the site of a new shelter for the homeless.

The Community Shelter Board has run out of space for all the people who need help...more than 9,000 last year with nowhere to go.  Roxie Stevens was one of them.

"My fiancé, he passed away in August and I couldn't pay the rent," she said.

This 39-year-old mother of two, about to become a grandmother, had never lived at a shelter before, but she does now.

"I had nowhere else to go. I had no family to turn to," Roxie said.

One son lives with his father in Texas.  The other is elsewhere in Ohio.  She tried staying with friends, but wore out her welcome.  Around Thanksgiving, Roxie moved into Rebecca's Place, an apartment house rented by the Shelter Board for homeless women.

"We have seen significant increases in homelessness in the last three years," said Michelle Heritage, executive director of the Community Shelter Board, "Especially among women. We're not quite sure why we're seeing more women becoming homeless.  But that number is also sky rocketing in a way that's concerning us."

Women lucky enough to find a bed...a mattress on the floor covered with sheets and a blanket, often two to a room...are housed in this dilapidated facility on the near east side.  There are holes in the wall, mold on the ceiling, and some windows that don't close completely.

Roxie pointed to a frosty white patch on the sill below the crooked window in her room, and rubbed her finger it.  

"Ice on it," she said. "The windows won't go down all the way."

The inferior conditions are why the Community Shelter Board will move them all out, and into the new facility.

"Those apartment buildings have gone into foreclosure and receivership and they have just fallen into a state of disrepair," Heritage said. "We really need to do a better job of sheltering women.  They deserve a much more dignified environment."

The new shelter will have hundreds of beds, dining space, and a place to meet with counselors to get residents back on their feet.

Heritage said security is important, so there will be walls between the men's and women's sides.

"There's a high level of women who have experienced trauma and domestic violence, that are entering our shelters. It's important to make sure that they have a safe environment," she said.

The goal, she said, is not just to warehouse people, but also to help them rebuild their lives so they don't have to live in shelters.

The new site has space for some families, too, but again, not enough.  Since 2006, the YWCA Family Center has housed homeless families, but that shelter is at three times the capacity it was designed to serve.  So Heritage said the shelter board may take over an additional 20,000 square feet at the old box company, and convert it into a second family shelter.

Roxie said that the new shelter sounds good, but hopes she'll be back on her feet by June, when it opens.

"When they say when you hit rock bottom, I've been below rock bottom," she said.

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